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Chile evaluates the effects of frost on citrus fruits

Given the recent frosts in the central zone, the Citrus Committee of ASOEX spoke about the status of the citrus orchards and the actions that their associates, which represent about 75% of Chile’s citrus exporters, need to take.
According to the Chilean Meteorological Directorate, during week 22, minimum temperatures below -2.0° C were recorded in the regions of Valparaiso, Metropolitana, and O’Higgins.
The damage caused by frost depends on the minimum temperature, the time of exposure to that temperature, the species, the variety and the state of maturity of the fruit; thus, technical teams of each exporter must carefully evaluate the potential damage in each orchard and stop its harvest until determining the incidence of damage in the fruit.
It’s still too early to estimate the damage in the fruit, since the internal damage only manifests itself 10 days after the frost occurred. “In the field damage evaluations will be carried out exhaustively in all orchards at risk until we are certain that the fruit for export doesn’t present any damage,” emphasized Juan Enrique Ortuzar, the President of the Citrus Committee.
The frosts didn’t affect all areas, nor all citrus orchards. In fact, an orchard may have sectors that were affected and other areas that have no damages. “Currently, most of the orchards are in located in places that are more protected from the cold within the valleys. There has been a change in the way we produce citrus as producers have cultivated crops that are more tolerant to the cold in the lower sectors of the valleys, where frost affects crops more intensely,” added Ortuzar.
Harvest status
To date, harvests have advanced as follows: 35% advance in Lemons, 55% advance in Clementines and 10% advance in Navel oranges, which present a good sugar level, which allows the fruits to better resist low temperatures. The harvest of the late mandarins hasn’t started.
ASOEX’s Citrus Committee has developed an action handbook against frost so that producers and exporters act together, following a precise and disciplined work plan to prevent the fruit that will be exported to be damaged by low temperatures. These actions include the installation of thermographers in the orchards and the temporary suspension of crops in the affected orchards, until the fruit is checked to confirm that it meets the corresponding export requirements. These measures have already been applied in similar episodes that occurred in previous seasons with very good results.
The Committee expects to have more information about the potential damage caused by the frost within the next two weeks, once the evaluations have been made in each orchard; any decrease in the export volumes, will be reported in a timely manner.
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