AG Watch

Quake in Chile Could Affect Produce Prices

Monday, March 01, 2010

Most of the grapes, peaches, and avocados on store shelves right now come from Chile. But after this weekend's massive earthquake, future exports are in question.

Grapes are the country's biggest export this time of year, harvested between mid February through the end of March. Mickey Paggi with Fresno State's Agri Business Center said the Chile quake will likely have some sort of effect on the produce supply here, but it's too early to know specifics. "I think if we wanted to focus on one thing in the central valley, it would be the table grape issue. It is big... It's about 64 percent in terms of value, and this is a period where it's a really active market," said Paggi.

Chile's ag industry is much like California's, producing many of the same fruits but during different times of the year. Those year round imports and exports keep Visalia's Mike Burchett busy. The owner of MB Fresh International has two of his sons in Chile now, helping during the harvest. He agreed the quake will have an effect on the country's exports. "There's going to be some hiccups. Anytime there's a gap in supply, prices will fluctuate, and I can see that happening right now," said Burchett.

Still, Burchett says the changes won't be immediate. That's because there's still fruit enroute to the U.S., shipped before the quake. Also, the extent of the damage to the country's infrastructure, including its ports, remains to be seen. "In the Santiago area, a lot of the cold storage people I've talked to say there's no structural damage they can see. But they've had pallets that have fallen over inside the cold storage, so there's going to be some loss. But I haven't heard any big numbers," said Burchett.

Despite the devastation in Chile, Burchett says its people are resilient. "Their business is exports. And they will get back to business as fast as they can," said Burchett.

It normally takes about 10 to 14 days to ship produce from Chile to the U.S., so if there is a gap, it may not be felt at your grocery store for another two to three weeks.

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Tags:
earthquake, chile, agriculture, ag watch, amanda perez
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