Chile’s new fruit varieties nearly ready for global market

A decade of focused research has resulted in new varieties of stone fruit developed specifically for the Chilean climate, now available for the first time on the local market.

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Chile is already one of the world’s largest fruit exporters, but according to Agriculture Minister José Antonio Galilea, 98 percent of the varieties grown here were developed in breeding programs overseas.

All that is slated to change in the coming years as a program from Andes New Varieties Association (ANA) Chile and the University of Chile, with backing from the Coporatino for Production Development’s biofruit innovation consortium, begins marketing fruit varieties developed in Chile.

Developing new varieties will help Chile to specialize its crops to the specifics of the Chilean climate. Efforts in past decade or so have focused on stone fruits (peaches, apricots, plums). These varieties have recently become available for a test run on the local market, with expansion to international markets expected to follow shortly.

Galilea is confident in the viability of new Chilean varieties in the international market. “For a country like Chile that already has enough prestige for the quality of its fruit in distinct markets, it shouldn’t be too laborious to introduce new varieties,” he says.

According to Galilea, the technologies involved in developing new, Chile-specific varieties of fruit is the necessary next step for the continued rise of Chile’s growing fruit industry. Having already become a major force in forestry and agriculture, Chile’s primary lag behind other major producers is in the field of genetic technologies. Andes New Varieties and associated groups has been working for the over a decade to close that gap.

Now a new bill currently under discussion in Chilean congress promises legal structures to promote the development of new fruit varieties. The bill, says Galilea, “should not only allow for more foreign investment in the technological area and the generation of new varieties, but will also stimulate our own research.”

While these new Chilean varieties receive their first test runs in the local market, the fruit industry is branching out to new markets with some of its most popular products. The most recent breakthrough was  a new agreement to fast-track import of Chilean prunes to the Chinese market. With this new agreement, the Ministry of Agriculture has predicted that prune exports will rise from nearly 69,000 metric tones in 2010, to as many as 100,000 metric tones by 2015.