Low in volumes and better calibers. Greater fresh sales and an international demand that looks definitively positive, are part of the tips that deliver three top executives in the middle of a pandemic that (still) does not affect this agro-industrial sector, thanks to the rigor of the protocols implemented.
Federico Montes, General Manager Prunesco
Prunesco: offices and plant in Pirque, semi rural area 35 km from the center of Santiago. The 100 of its raw material is prunes, of which – at 2020 – 10 thousand tonnes will be dehydrated, in various supermarket containers, and another 3 thousand, pulp and concentrated juice. Most relevant markets: Germany, Nordic countries, Italy, Australia, Mexico, China and Brazil.
Market. While there will be less fruit this year, we as a company consider that sales and exports, despite the coronavirus, have been within normal. It’s been a quiet year. In terms of prices, large fruit is at levels similar to the previous year, and the small one, for which it was paid very recently, has shown a significant increase.
Demand. In March and April, several supermarkets in Europe sold a 40 more than usual so they pressured us to rush our offices. This trend is already being replicated in May. Why is demand increasing? Perhaps, many people have made purchases to have three months of pantry, prunes has a long shelf life and is a healthy and sweet product – replacing chocolate, calming anxiety – it’s perfect for that. In sales in Chile we have had a spike in the demand of our online store (ciruelaseca.cl) and this would be explained by the characteristics of the product plus the logistics of getting directly to the houses.
Coronavirus. The country has provided the facilities for agribusiness to continue to operate to supply the country and international markets. At Prunesco, we have taken multiple steps to minimize a possible chain of contagion within the company, which has not happened so far (19 May). We’ve even campaigned to prevent our staff from spreading out of the company.
Andrés Santa Cruz, General Manager Surnat
Surnat: its focus is on prunes, walnuts and cherries; has the prunes processing plant in Chimbarongo, two hours from the capital. Most relevant markets: Mexico, Europe and China.
Season. We will have this 2020 a production drop by around 20 compared to 2019. Some factors for this lower harvest are drought, problems with fruit that fell due to sunstrokes and probably a season with fewer fruits per tree. Fresh D’Agen prunes – which was not previously on the radar – is consolidating as a product in China and that takes away some of the volume of dehydrated. In 5 years, Chile went from exporting 3,000 to 33,000 fresh tons in 2020. However, fresh prices have been more volatile than those of dehydration.
Calibers. What is trending is that we have several seasons with an ever better caliber. We have a fruit with more pulp and more sweetness.
Market. Prunes has a higher consumption in the second half (more than 65 of exports occur in that period). I believe that despite the general uncertainty, with an operation that has not been normal, especially at the level of supermarkets and restaurants, we will have a better second semester in consumption. One thing that would eventually benefit prunes is that the snack segment could increase their demand since it is easy to consume, people are very much in their homes, and they do not want to be always cooking.
We must maintain the supply chain and to do so, we have received the support of the authorities. In Surnat, to maintain productive capacity at a normal level, we have taken several measures to avoid contagion in the company, we make working groups of less people, different shifts that allow to reduce contacts, distances on the selection lines with separation of 2 meters, among other measures.
Bruno Ceroni, Business Manager Good Valley
Good Valley: Focus on prunes, raisins and nuts among other dry products, which are destined for Germany, Italy, Poland and Asia, mainly. Its plant is in Santa Cruz, two hours from Santiago.
Harvest. With the current background, and not counting on the final season numbers, a volume drop is displayed. By the time of the Expo Prunes (November last year), frost damage and drought were expected, but in the end it influenced more than thought.
Drought yields a positive aspect to the calibers, with a much higher sweetness; it also helps the latter the good timing of the producers to harvest and the reduction of fruits per tree that was made from fresh harvesting for China, leading to soluble solids concentrated on fewer fruits. We are approaching sugar levels such as those produced in the United States and France.
Fresh. Regarding the fresh plum harvest, after last year’s bad experience, we thought it would have a drop to 1/3 or 1/4 to what was recorded in 2019. However, it was more than half reaching 1,374 containers, all due to higher order at the industry level, joint effort of producers and exporters, greater sync in the search for higher quality, more pressure from receivers with guaranteed minimums, firm purchases, among others. That joint risk will be rewarded, and there will be higher returns.
Contingency. We believe the Asian market will rebound. The first quarter was slow, but since China they are already doing consultations and requirements, we see a greater interest. In Good Valley we take the necessary measures, such as reduced turns that do not touch each other, or measure temperature to those who enter. Our workers have been very responsible, they do not want to get infected or miss work, and we all take care of each other.
There has been uncertainty, for the second half announcing a global economic recession, but in turn, in the second half the consumption increases, we are in direct contact with our halls and so far everything looks good. At Good Valley, we expect to grow 10 in volume compared to 2019.