Chilean apples are gaining more and more space in the national market. As confirmed by sources from the Río Negro and Neuquén chambers, they could now begin to enter with a designation of origin that would indicate: "Fracking-free apple." The advertising strategy has already been anticipated to some of the producers of the Alto Valle and they fear that a marketing action of this type will be a lethal blow to their business. "It could end our apple," acknowledges a producer from General Roca. "Labeling with that would be checkmate", concludes the trader of a multinational that operates in the Upper Valley.
In the region there is a strong debate regarding the use of fraking in the fields. The low price of the fruit forced the farmers to rent their land to gas and oil companies at values of around 135 thousand pesos per year. A figure that can double what a producer produces in 10 cultivated hectares. In Europe and the East, where premium sectors abound, consumers are beginning to reject fruit grown in the vicinity of oil wells for fear of contamination. In the farms of the Valley it is common to see storks among the fruit trees. In the last decade the advancement of the oil industry in production areas has become undeniable. Senator Magdalena Odarda (ARI), along with anti-Fracking organizations from Allen, General Roca and Cipolletti, denounce the replacement of one productive matrix by another. "The producers are alone, without help, suffer serious economic problems and are being forgotten," says Odarda.
According to the consulting firm Gabinete MAG, so far in 2016 700 thousand kilos of trans-Andean apples have entered. But the trend continues to rise, so it is expected that between now and December the total will exceed two tons. The national market is highly desired by Chileans - by volume and price - who would be designing high-impact campaigns to impose their products. "Fruit Free of Fracking" and "Apple Free of Fracking", would be the two designations of origin that would bring the boxes of 19 kilos, they report.
The wholesale price of the box of 19 kilos of Chilean apple costs 300 pesos. That is, 15.7 pesos per kilo. The same that is paid for the national kilo of high quality in the Central Market. However, the Chilean industry from 2001 to today, has promoted the cultivation of varieties designed to offer a greater impact on the gondolas, such as Jazz, Honeycrisp and SweeTang. These are beginning to gain ground from the traditional galas that occupy some 13,000 hectares of the nearly 40,000 they have in production. They are defined as luminous apples, with intense colors and a crunchy texture that convey to the consumer a more “caramel” than fruity experience.
“They beat us with color, it is a beautiful apple to see. But in flavors we are better, sweeter, our flavor is more whole. Chilean apples are more sour ”, explains Sebastián Hernández, president of the Allen Chamber of Producers, who was distributing fruit in Plaza de Mayo on Tuesday. "They are the same supermarkets and even large fruit companies that are buying in Chile," says Hernández.
Argentina has a cultivation area of 60 thousand hectares. But it is still tied to less visually attractive varieties. “Chile has an edaphoclimatic aptitude (soil and climate) that is very difficult to match in other parts of the world. The climate, warm during the day and cold at night, makes any apple much easier to acquire color. It is the mountain range that causes this phenomenon. In Argentina, apples tend to have less color as they develop in a flat desert, which does not have much thermal difference. There they have to choose new varieties that they color easily to stay on the market ”, explains an Italian executive.
In Chile, the apple production process is completely industrial and harvesting “robots” and machinery predominate over handwork. In the Alto Valle, producing apples represents a way of life. Some 70 thousand people live thanks to its crops. “I have been to Chile several times observing its development and it is excellent. But their system is not like ours. Their labor costs fell, their process is industrial, it is very different ”, explains Edgardo Kristensen, producer from Cipolletti.
At present, Argentina produces about 900 thousand tons of apple, against the 1.3 million tons of Chile.