With hundreds of attendees in Chile and 25 other countries around the world, a new version of EXPO Prunes, organized by the Gremial Association of Prunes Processors and Exporters of Chile, Chileprunes, was virtually concluded.

An event that recognized how complex the industry’s unity has been last year by drought, sun strokes and the untimely January rain, in addition to the pandemic, but where the unity of the sector was also valued, its resilience and effort, public-private work capacity and strong adoption of new technologies, factors that, among others, help to keep up with exports globally.

In his words of welcome, Pedro Pablo Díaz, President of Chileprunes, pointed out the indispensableness of this meeting, to listen to and see each other, and to understand that Chilean plum is one in the eyes of our consumers around the world. “We have built with great effort a brand heritage, Ciruelas de Chile, which has immeasurable value and which together we must protect,” he says.

This meeting featured important government authorities:

The Minister of Agriculture, María Emilia Undurraga, highlighted the strength of this sector, the world’s first exporter with more than 13 thousand hectares cultivated, being an important source of work, granting it to more than 4,000 women across the country, so “it is essential to work together and in a coordinated way to meet the challenges of the sector”. For his part, the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Andrés Allamand, referred to the high representativeness of this sector that welcomes producers and exporters of dried plums. It positioned this fruit as relevant within a very successful agro-industrial sector, accounting for 4.7% of GDP, generating 370,000 direct jobs across the country, and exports of US$ 16 billion, 47% of the total value of non-copper goods, with 880 products.

Andrés Rodríguez, Chile’s agricultural attache in the United States, points out that Chile’s dry plum industry has much to be proud of, being the world’s leading exporters, high quality, added value, innovation, and an industry that works together as demonstrated by this congress, not only as an industry but also in a private public effort to position itself in the world.

Alongside the technologies

Another positive news in agribusiness, the second business sector in our country, is its increasingly intensive use in new technologies. “In 2014 there were no investments in agri food tech in 2014 and in 2019 a single company invested US$ 1 billion. Much more movement of startups offering all kinds of solutions to the food industry is being observed,” says Sofia Ramírez Calvo, deputy partner of AgFunder, the world’s second-most active investment fund in food tech. It’s time to adopt AgTech. “Latin America is the second fastest growing home sales after Asia. There are opportunities in robotics, midstream and logistics, in innovative food, digital sales channels and biotech,” he adds.

For his part, Nicolás Leal, e-commerce specialist and general manager of LapMarketplace, invited to join digital sales, which can be done with bulk or finished products. It is necessary to be where consumers are, in addition, “there are already about 30% of people between 55 and 64 years old who have bought products through cell phone, this is not of the new or millennial generations; older people detected the benefit in safety, saving time and money, there’s no going back on this.”

Business, value and profitability

Sebastián Valdés, independent director of the agro-industrial sector, gave us a historical tour of what this crop has been, starting around 100 years ago in California. He points out that the focus should be on adding value in the commercial and productive chain, with logistical and productive efficiency, but also in perception of value on the part of consumers. “We must walk alongside the consumer, who seek to make food tell a story, that is sustainable, that make them feel and look good, looking for different textures.”

And a look ahead: “Adding versatility to functionality to increase perceived value can lead to an attractive new cycle for plum.”

There are margins to grow and expand the industry. Juan Pablo Sotomayor, technical manager of Frutexsa, invited further work for quality in plants and process equipment, so that between 80% and 85% of the very well selected plum can be exported.

The agronomist expert in nuts, Tomás Labbé, in his talk “How to Improve Productivity and Quality D’Agen”, recommends a mixed production 70%-30% between dry and fresh (very demanded in China), “with this combination the greatest profitability is achieved, understanding of course what is the real potential of each orchard and its characteristics”.

Climate and environment

Without a doubt, environmental issues are the ones that concern the sector the most. In the face of dryness and climate instability, it is necessary to continue with works of water accumulation, drainage and containment, meshes to generate more pleasant microclimates, and arborization in the face of extreme winds, says Fernando Santibáñez, director of Agrimed, who also noted that technological adaptation will be essential to maintain and increase the competitiveness of agriculture. While progress continues in rising temperatures in Chile (1.3 degrees warmer by 2050) it displays opportunities in coastal areas that by factors are well suited to this change.

Another relevant topic was Greenhouse Gases (GHGs). Veronica de la Cerda, CEO TriCiclos, says we are anchored to a linear model, where we are permanently extracting resources that are not necessarily renewable and then we are discarding them. There are polluting effects from fertilizer use, pest control, methane emission, biodiversity loss and soil erosion. And it’s not just the impact that occurs on the field, but on all value chains.”

But here’s a tremendous opportunity to reduce impacts, break linear logic, he says. The first thing is to reduce emissions to reach the maximum of 1.5oC of global temperature increase proposed by the UN and that implies a considerable reduction in GHGs. “It is very important to face this change with a new mindset; less harm is no longer enough, a positive contribution must also be made and much can be done in the agricultural world, capturing carbon, generating better soils, helping communities,” he says.

Mauricio Zúñiga de Agromillora, made a presentation that revolved around the need to be more efficient in the orchards to achieve greater profitability. To this end, he presented a case of application of super efficient methodology (SSE) in D’Agen plums, a system that avoids very wide trees, has a correct fruit wall and achieves efficient penetration of light. “When there are climatic problems in flowering, summer rains and/or cloudy days with low temperature, with this method the harvests are 3 times faster and at a lower cost. This can be the difference between a season’s success and failure.”

From a technical, commercial, technological and/or environmental edge there are several challenges, but next to them they look at the opportunities pointed out by all expo speakers for an improvement that will lead to the dry plum sector a step higher in global trade.

You are invited to relive event in https://www.expociruelassecas.cl/

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