Home Industry News Economics Chilean Raisin Growers Begin Shifting to Other Crops

Chilean Raisin Growers Begin Shifting to Other Crops

Raisin production in Chile relies almost exclusively on table grape production. For marketing year (MY) 2022/23, Post projects 61,850 metric tons (MT) of raisin production, a 1.5 percent decrease from MY 2021/22. Raisin exports will total 59,000 MT, a 1.7 percent decrease from MY 2021/22. The decrease can be attributed to a reduction in table grape planted area as farmers switched to more profitable crops such as cherries, walnuts, avocado, and citrus. In MY 2021/22 planted area totaled 43,104 hectares (ha), a 5.4 percent decrease from MY 2020/21. Planted area is projected to decrease to 40,950 ha in MY 2022/23.

Planted Area:

For MY 2022/23, Post estimates that planted area will continue its downward trend to 40,950 ha, a five percent decrease from MY 2021/22 (See Table 1), as producers shift from grapes to more profitable crops. Chile’s fresh table grape planted area in MY 2021/22 totaled 43,104 hectares (ha) a 5.2 percent decrease from MY 2020/21. Table grape planted area followed a downward trend for the past 10 marketing years because margins are low (see Figure 1). In MY 2021/22 planted area totaled 43,104 hectares, after a 5.4 percent decrease from MY 2020/21. Drought also negatively impacted table grape production and continues to be a problem in MY 2021/22. Recent data updates show a decrease in table grape planted area in all the production regions in Chile, from the Atacama region in the north to the O’Higgins region in the central part of the country.

Some producers of table grapes in central regions such as Valparaíso, Metropolitana and O’Higgins replaced their grape orchards with more profitable crops such as walnuts, avocado, cherries, and citrus. Towards the north of the country, in the Coquimbo region, alternative crops are mostly mandarins, clementines and lemons, while in Atacama there are almost no alternative crops other than table grapes due to the climatic conditions and the type of soil.

Production:

In MY 2022/23 raisin production is projected to reach 61,850 MT a 1.5 percent decrease from MY 2021/22. Raisin production is declining in line with decreases in table grape production, both of which are driven from farmers seeking out more profitable crops. These estimates assume normal table grape yields and planted area decreasing to 40,950 ha (see Table 1).

Raisin production in Chile is linked to fresh table grape production. Producers use raisins as an alternative for those grapes that cannot be exported because of their quality, maturity, or size. Usually, profits from raisin production are much lower than those obtained with fresh table grape exports. However, raisin production is a reliable and steady business which became an alternative for producers that own orchards with traditional varieties, such as Crimson seedless or Thompson seedless. In recent years, these varieties have not been in high demand. There are no official data in Chile for the few grapes orchards that focus exclusively on raisin production.

In MY 2021/22 raisin production decreased by 5.2 percent to 62,800 MT (see Table 2). MY 2021/22 was a typical year, with no abnormal climatic events during the table grape harvest, thus the decrease in raisin production is attributed to lower table grape planted area. For MY 2022/23, Post estimates a further decrease in planted area and unchanged yields.

Consumption:

In MY 2021/22, raisin consumption is estimated to increase by 1.4 percent to 3,650 MT following population growth. Domestic consumption of raisins consists of raisins for snacks and for confectionary. Confectionary is mainly ice-cream, bakery, cookies, and chocolate.

Stocks:

Stocks are projected to remain flat at 400 MT in MY 2022/23. Chilean companies do not store raisins for large periods of time, since trade flow is constant throughout the year. Stocks correspond to raisins that were not sold between marketing years. 

Trade:

Post estimates that in MY 2022/23 Chilean raisin exports will decrease to 59,000 MT, a 1.7 percent decrease from MY 2021/22 following the decrease in table grape planted area (see Table 1).  From January to May 2022, Chilean raisin exports to the world decreased by 5.0 percent in volume from the same period in 2021 reaching 17,736 MT (see Table 3) and $34.7 million (see Table 4).

Chilean raisin exports are available throughout the year, and export volume peaks between October and November, just before the table grape harvest starts. In MY 2021/22, monthly exports of raisins show a decrease particularly in April and May (Figure 2). April and May were difficult months in for export logistics, since there were delays and increased costs due to the high demand from Chilean exporters.

In MY 2021/22 (data until May), the top markets for Chilean raisin exports were the United States, Mexico, and the Netherlands. These markets have historically been of importance for Chilean raisins and differences year-to-year are attributed to specific market conditions such as price variations. Exports of Chilean raisins to China increased significantly for the past three marketing years due to high demand. Chilean exports of raisins to China increased by 20.7 percent in MY 2021/22 over MY 2020/21 totaling 1,493 MT and making it the fourth top export market for Chilean raisins. — By Sergio Gonzalez, USDA Foreign Ag Service

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