Argentina: Raisin sector expects to recover in 2015
According to a recent report by the USDA, the production and exports of Argentinean raisins are expected to rebound in 2015. Production for that year is estimated at 33,000 tons, 29,500 of which will be exported and the rest will be sent to the domestic market.
Currently, the province of San Juan, in western Argentina, produces 95% of the country's raisins while the rest is mainly produced in the provinces of Mendoza and La Rioja.
According to estimates from private sources, the country will have 6,600 hectares planted with raisins in 2014 and 2015, as there won't be any significant investment in land in the near future.
The province of San Juan is a very dry region and, although there is still land available for the production of raisins in the province, area expansion depends heavily on irrigation, which, unfortunately, is very expensive.
In 2015, the production of grapes for raisins in 2015 is expected to increase by 34.5% over the previous year, amounting to 138,600 tons as a result of favourable weather conditions. Thus, raisin production is expected to reach 33,000 tons.
Meanwhile, grape production for 2014 is estimated at 102,900 tons, 31,500 tons less than in the previous year due to late frosts in September-October 2013 and the excess rains in the summer of 2014, during dry season. Thus, this year's raisin production is estimated at 24,500 tons, compared to the 34,000 tons estimated by the USDA.
Among the key challenges that the industry faces at present are the high import tariffs established for Argentine raisins in some export markets. The rising costs of production are a major concern, especially the cost of raw material, i.e. the grapes used for raisin production, labour, supplies, chemicals, energy, cargo and fuel.
Private investment in the raisin sector has increased in recent years and is mainly of domestic capital. Investments have been made for the primary production and the incorporation of new technologies to deliver larger volumes that have a superior quality and are more competitive in order to supply the export markets.
So far, there have been no announcements of major investments for the near future in this sector.
It's worth noting that the import restrictions set by the Government of Argentina (GOA) in February 2012 have been discouraging producers from purchasing processing machinery abroad. So, there are currently about 32 processing plants in the province of San Juan.
The main grapes used to produce raisins are the Flame Seedless (which accounts for more than 40% of the total raisin production) and Arizul (INTA CG 351) (accounting for over 20% of raisin production), which have attracted new investments in processing facilities and storage technology.
Other grape varieties that used to produce raisins are: Sultanina Blanca (Thompson Seedless), Superior Seedless, Torrontés sanjuanino, Cherry, Emperor, Tinogastena and Criolla Chica.
Fiesta is a relatively new variety originated in the U.S. that is well known because of its good performance, adaptability and drying process. As such, estimates are that the area planted with this variety will continue to increase in the near future.
The drying process in Argentina is carried out, mainly, by using the sun. The grapes are placed on racks covered by stones and left to dry under the sun for a period of 15-30 days, depending on the grape variety. The final product has a moisture content of 15-20%.
After the drying process is completed, vegetable oil is applied to the raisins and then they are packed in 13-kilo boxes, in bulk or in groups.
The Ministry of Agriculture of Argentina established a protocol for certified raisins, which includes a Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Points.
According to the report by the USDA, the Argentina's raisin consumption is very low and varies between 2,500 and 3,500 tons a year, depending heavily on exports.
Argentineans do not have the habit of eating raisins on a daily basis, as an aperitif or in bakery products. However, there has been an increase in raisin demand to be used in chocolate bars and cereals, ice cream, bakery industries, confectionery and local foods.
Domestic consumption is expected to increase to 3,530 MT in 2015 because there will be a larger production. Exports of raisins for 2015 are estimated at 29,500 tons, i.e. 34% more than in the previous year.
Exports for 2014 are expected to decline sharply to 22,000 tons, 8,000 tons less than the official estimates, due to lower production.
Source: Fresh Fruit Portal
Publication date: 9/4/2014
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