Argentina, the second-largest country in South America, has a small but expanding cherry industry. Around half of the countrys 7,000 acres of cherry orchards are in the state of Mendoza, which is located east of Santiago, Chile, in the eastern foothills of the Andes mountain range. It is the earliest cherry growing region in the country, with Bing cherry harvest beginning in early November. The latitude is 33S, the equivalent of southern California.
Mendozas cherry orchards vary in size from about 20 to 500 hectares (50 to 1,200 acres). There are about 50 growers and seven export companies. Mariano Quirs, with the Mendoza Cherries Argentina (the Mendoza cherry commission), said the state needs at least 2,500 more acres of cherries and is encouraging local and foreign investors to become involved. The government of Argentina considers the cherry industry to be important because it is a large employer.
Argentina produces about 4,250 metric tons of cherries for the domestic market, which is very strong, and 2,550 tons for export. About 40 percent of the exports go to the United Kingdom, which is demanding in terms of quality but less so about fruit size.
Its a good market for small cherries, which is not the case with Asian markets or mainland Europe, Quirs said. The U.K. supermarket Tesco is the largest customer. Argentine cherry producers are also targeting markets in the eastern United States.
The commission runs promotions in both domestic and export markets and works with producers to make sure the quality of the fruit meets the market demands, although it does not set quality standards.
Cherries for export, whether by air or sea, are trucked from Mendoza to Buenos Aires on Argentinas east coast, a 16-hour drive away.
Joan Sainz with Expofruit S.A. said that cherry growers in northern Mendoza produce the earliest cherries in the country but have not been very successful because of a lack of chilling hours. They are looking for low-chill varieties.
Cherries are also grown in other parts of the country, including the Rio Negro, which is the main apple- and pear-growing region, at a latitude of 40S, and as far south as Patagonia (46S), where the focus is on producing late-maturing varieties.
Like everywhere, were trying to extend the season with new varieties, Sainz said. Were making agreements with breeders to get their latest varieties.
We will have a growth in orchards in the next years, he added. We have a good opportunity for the cherry business because of land, water, and good weather. Of all the fruits, I think cherry will be one that will have more growth in orchards in the coming years.