Interview with Matías Campos Santa María, president of Silvestres S.A.,who on the other hand points out that this 2020 almost all prunes were sold, something that did not happen many years ago, “In that sense, it was a good year and there will be no binding stock for the period to come”.
More than sweet than greed will end up being 2020 for the exporter of wild nuts. Chileprunes’ partner company, with a strong presence in international markets for prunes, sold at good prices, upwards, which has been an incentive for the export sector.
Indeed, this 2020 almost all prunes were sold, which did not happen many years ago. In that sense, it was a good year and there will be no liaison stock for the coming period, explains its president and partner, the business administrator, Matías Campos Santa María, who adds that “international buyers realized that there was really little prunes, mainly affected by a climate and water issue”.
It clarifies that, while it is good to have high prices, demand is tremendously sensitive to price changes, so be careful about it.
As for water scarcity, the executive acknowledges that they had a moderately benign winter, somely compensating for the drought of recent years, but that it does not de-emerge that it remains the great agricultural issue to face in the coming years.
“The water thing requires a national agreement. Whatever I do on wells or irrigation, I already have done as a company, but we need a major public policy with hydraulic systems from the mountain; a tube that crosses the mountain range at 2,500 or 3-000 meters, providing water through a pressure system to which farmers, paying, connect and can water by spray. It would be revolutionary for Chile, with energy and water savings. Spain does so in some valleys where there is unevenness and farmers pay a fee and never spent oil again,” he says.
He points out that investment is strong, but paid over the years, for the very use that farmers would make and, moreover, the world is not polluted. “This is a reasonable, cost-effective measure that allows an organization of all actors, in the face of the improvisation that exists today, where almost everything malfunctions in the water part, there is a lot of theft of irrigation channels… there are people shot for this.”
Silvestres S.A. was founded in 1989 and quickly became a major nut actor, participating in the most prestigious international fairs such as SIAL, Anuga, Gulfood and Fancy Food. With offices in Santiago, one processing plant in San Bernardo, and another, in Rinconada de Los Andes, and fields in various areas of the country, the Chilean partner company, has about 50 fixed employees, which rise to 360 in harvest season.
Its production of prunes in the 2019/2020 season reached 800 tons, which represented a 25% drop from the previous period, and it is estimated that the 2021 harvest will be on the same magnitude of this season.
The specific reasons for this low have to do with the weather, long flowering and black frosts (temperature below 0oC but without frost, since the air is so dry that the temperature does not equal that of dew and therefore there is no condensation or frost formation). This leads to the tree aborting the late fruit that is smaller.
Silvestres is a mainly exporting company, shipping to 23 countries, the most relevant being Poland, Germany UK, Spain and Russia; China stands out in Asia, and in Latin America Mexico, Brazil and Peru, among others. While the destinations are mostly prunes there is 12% that also goes fresh to China.
Regarding the fresh plum Sugar Plums, Campos Santa María comments that this opportunity was given three years ago, “starting well, but 2019 was bad, with terrible returns, because there was an avalanche of regular quality fruits that filled the Chinese market and, of course, paid little. We’ve been learning to see what they want to meet their requirements. As for prunes, China is an erratic but giant market, so you have to stay there.”
As markets with the potential to be developed, India, Vietnam and Singapore stand out.