Timing and Predictions
The Chilean cherry season started in late October 2020 with limited early volumes. Peak season will be concentrated during the final weeks of December. Reports show crop volume is approximately 7-8 days delayed compared with last season.
The production area in Chile has grown quickly every year, with an annual plantation rate of 10-15%. The total area planted now is approximately 42,200 hectares. The new orchards are increasing productivity every year. The Chilean Association of Nurseries reports that in 2019 more than 5.6 million cherry plants were sold, of which 80% was Santinas, Lapins, and Regina varieties.
Weather and Sizing
Weather conditions this year have been positive for cherries. We have seen more rain than last year and also adequate cold hours during the winter so growers are expecting to increase their production this year. As long as there are no unexpected meteorological issues ahead, such as late rains or hailstorms, it is projected that production could reach 290,000-300,000 tonnes. This means approximately 55 to 60 million 5 kg boxes, which would be a 35% increase compared with last season 2019-2020.
Regarding fruit sizing, depending on the variety, it will probably be around 10% XL (24-26mm), 30% J (26-28mm), 45% SJ (28-30mm), and 15% SXJ (30-up mm).
Chilean cherries are concentrated in the central zone of Chile, between the regions of O’Higgins (VI) and El Maule (VII), followed by the Bío-Bío area (VIII), which have had a sustained increase in the past years. The industry has also been exploring southern areas such as Chile Chico (XI Region) because these regions are focused on the possibility of obtaining higher prices because the harvest in these áreas is late and only begins when the central area harvest is finished. The main varieties grown in the south are Sweethearts, Lapins, Kordias, and Reginas. Harvest for these áreas is estimated to take place during January and February 2021.
China is the main trading partner for Chilean cherries, representing 88% of total exports. Taking advantage of the strong commercial ties with China, there is confidence that the increase in production projected for this season will be acquired mainly by Chinese importers, while the United States ranks second. Exports to the United States represent 2% of total Chilean cherry exports, followed by Latin America, the Middle East, and South East Asia.