With great attendance among producers, processors and exporters, among others, the Chilean plum sector met again at the 11 EXPO Ciruelas Secas (Prunes) 2024, a Chilean industry that is the world’s main exporter of this fruit.

It is organized by the Trade Association of Processors and Exporters of Prunes of Chile, Chileprunes, led by its president Pedro Pablo Díaz, who recalled the great public-private work that allowed the entry of prunes to India. He also placed emphasis on China, not only because it is the main destination for our dehydrated plums with shipments of 18 thousand tons (T), but also because of the new requirements and guidelines of local authorities regarding ovens and drying systems, becoming traceability is relevant.

The president of Chileprunes adds that we must “continue betting on quality, quality and more quality. China demands it. The largest shelf in the world of prunes is located in China, because they have a decades-long tradition of consuming this product and know its qualities.”

But we should not neglect other traditional markets such as Mexico, Germany, Poland and Italy, among others. Mexico was our second destination in 2023 with 7 thousand T. “It is a market with reasonable prices, stable and faithful, but now the US is getting into us on the retail side. Let’s not leave behind a market that we have served for decades,” says Pedro Pablo Díaz.

Nor leave aside Germany, a country in which we are experts, with decades of attention and in which we have no competition. Poland is a serious market, which provides certainties. The same with Italy and Spain, which pays premium quality.

“Is the fruit perfect? No. We have a responsibility as an association to investigate and fix each of the prunes that pass through the process lines in a season that seems difficult and that considers 70 thousand T to offer to the markets,” he expresses.


Projection in production

Juan Pablo Sotomayor, technical manager of Frutexsa, made a productive analysis of the last season and projected what is coming in 2024, that is, an approximate production of 106 thousand T – a little more than in 2023, which reached 103 thousand tons. of which, around 82 thousand T would be available for the dehydrated industry. The average caliber: 75.

At a global level and considering three other large producers, in the United States, with its 16 thousand hectares, production should be around 80 thousand T, thinking about how loaded the orchards looked when visiting them. France, with 11 thousand hectares, should have a good season after two years of frost and achieve a harvest of 45 to 50 thousand dry tons. For its part, Argentina is experiencing something similar to the French case: after 5 years of frost, last year was quite good in climatic terms, projecting 30 – 35 thousand dry T.

Sebastián Valdés, director of agro-industrial and family companies, referred to the “other competition” in global production of prunes; Serbia, Moldova, Uzbekistan and China. Regarding the first two, we encounter little in terms of destinations for our exports; but Uzbekistan does deserve greater attention: “they have become the main supplier to China, a country that is our main market for us.”

Regarding China, the world’s main producer of plums, it has a large internal market that should not affect our exports. Unofficial figures speak of nearly 75 thousand hectares planted, mainly based on family farms. He points out that the future of the European prunes will be played in China, and where the fresh plum will have a lot of relevance. “Chile, in the future, will have its space in this great market, depending on how well we do things,” he says.


Fresh plums

Almost all of Chilean fresh plum exports go to China. In the 2022/2023 season it reached 58 thousand tons, but a significant jump is expected in the season that has just begun, with a jump of 24%, reaching over 72 thousand tons.

This was stated by Andrés Nawrath, Sales Manager of Copefrut, who highlights that the sale of fresh plums is with the free consignment model, where the price is generated by the market, so “differentiating ourselves from the rest of the competition is key. ”.

The Chinese ask for flavor, sweetness, juiciness, crunchiness and color. But we are in a season with a very relevant brix dispersion of 12 to 20, the same in color, so the situation is worrying considering the Chinese requirement, he says. “We must live up to consumer expectations, and as those expectations have dropped, the returns will be lower than the last ones.”

It is true that the Chinese market is unpredictable in terms of prices. This is not known until it is traded on the market, since it is by free consignment, and is also altered by various factors – sometimes unknown to the Chilean exporter – that zigzag year after year. “In any case, by the date of the event, the first ships will have already arrived in Asia, which will allow us to give some reference to what could happen the rest of the season in the fresh plum market,” says the specialist.

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