Cherry plantations in Chile have expanded dramatically in the last two decades as export demand has risen, making it the nation’s top tree fruit.
The trend continued in 2022, as cherry tree hectares showed a 25.7 percent increase from the previous season, as reported by Simfruit, using figures from the Office of Agrarian Studies and Policies (ODEPA).
The new hectares of cherry planted in 2022 (12,599) are greater that the total number of crops of this species that existed in 2009 (12,468).
With this, cherry tree acreage reached 16.4 percent of the entire area of fruit trees in the country, followed by walnut (12.3 percent) and table grapes (11.5 percent).
In 2000, ODEPA registered 3,241 hectares of cherry trees, and since then the area of these plantations has multiplied by 19 times to 61,559 hectares in 2022.
The boom in cherries is mainly explained by the consumption in China, which in the 2021/2022 season concentrated more than 95 percent of Chilean exports.
However, this explosive growth also comes with problems for some producers. Juan Pablo Subercaseaux, an academic at the Catholic University, a specialist in Agrarian Economics, and also a cherry producer, points out that with this accelerated increase in supply, competition is being defined by a matter of comparative advantages.
“Those who have a competitive advantage manage to continue doing very good business, while those who have higher production costs because they have to control water, rain, or have little production due to the climatic zone in which they are located, not so much anymore,” he stated.
Subercaseaux says that another side effect of the cherry boom is that many producers of fruits such as apples and table grapes, given their weaker performances, have turned towards the fashionable fruit tree.
The ODEPA data supports the diagnosis. Of the 53,850 hectares of table vines registered in 2011, today only 43,024 hectares remain, which means a drop of more than 20 percent.
Red apple area fell by 6.8 percent in the last year, and from 29,052 hectares in 2017, it has fallen to 23,992 hectares in 2022.
In contrast, a crop that attracts attention is the hazelnut. Last year, the area of this commodity increased by 48.8 percent to 36,393 hectares, ranking fourth in the country, with 9.7 percent of all fruit trees.