President Bachelet has promised action for seasonal labour, food safety and rural infrastructure
With Chile positioned as the southern hemisphere’s largest fresh produce exporter, Produce Business UK takes a look at the important announcements for the fruit trade made by President Michelle Bachelet in this week’s annual state address to Congress and gauges the sector’s reaction
The first point of note in President Bachelet’s address is her promise to bring a draft statute on seasonal labour to lawmakers in September. The Chilean Federation of Fruit Producers, Fedefruta, has acknowledged the move and says it will see to it that the new statute will guarantee the competitiveness of the fruit-producing sector.
Fedefruta president Juan Carolus Brown Bauzá says: “We welcome the fact that a date has been put on this bill which needs to be agreed by the government with both farm businesses and the land workers’ unions that have been working so hard together for so many years on this.
“It is vital the fruit-growing sector is treated distinctly when it comes to labour reform and we trust in the commitment made by the labour ministry last December that our activity will indeed be treated apart and that the agricultural employment bill takes account of the realities of our sector and fully considers its peculiarities and the seasonal factors that ultimately govern work in our fields and orchards. We expect labour reform to recognise these issues so they can be fully addressed in September by the bill.”
Another highlight from President Bachelet’s address was her announcement of a bill to create a national food safety and quality system under the auspices of a Chilean agency for food safety and quality.
Chile’s fruit growers and exporters are recognised as pioneers in this area; being among the first outside Europe to establish good agricultural practices (GAP) protocols. “Although Chilean fruit production is very well advanced and well placed in this respect, it is nevertheless very positive that this area is strengthened with a legal framework enshrined in public policy,” says Brown.
President Bachelet also announced good news for rural infrastructure in her speech with a programme to pave more rural roads and a reiteration of her earlier commitment to develop water infrastructure and resources in drought-threatened areas of the Andean nation.
Brown says his sector welcomes these developments “as there are areas such as Aconcagua and Petorca where reservoirs can wait no longer”. Aconcagua is a significant table-grape production area while Petorca is renowned for producing some 40% of Chile’s avocados.
Chile is the leading fresh fruit exporter in the southern hemisphere and fruit is the third most important sector within the nation’s economy. The sector is fundamental to the growth of the country as an important provider of employment and investment.
There are some 7,800 growers cultivating fruit on 310,000 hectares. The UK is an extremely important market for Chile’s fruit exports and the South American nation accounts for almost 60% of the southern hemisphere’s fruit exports.
The main lines are grapes, apples, kiwifruit, avocados, plums, nectarines, peaches and pears. Cherries and blueberries are playing an increasingly important role in the export portfolio, which now covers more than 30 different product lines that reach more than 100 countries worldwide.