The recent spell of heavy rain in Chile, with some areas receiving up to 400 mm of precipitation, has resulted in an estimated $400 million in damages. While this is just an initial estimate, both producers and Fedefruta, Chile’s fruit representative organization, anticipate even greater losses, given that some fields remain inaccessible due to the extensive damage.
Juan Pablo Orozco, an agronomist at Frucentro, a Chilean producer and exporter of table grapes, expressed deep distress over this second bout of heavy rainfall in just two months. He stated, “We have been facing significant challenges with the recent rains in Chile. In certain regions, we witnessed over 400 mm of rainfall within a mere two days, which is equivalent to the entire winter’s precipitation in some areas. This marks the second severe weather event of the year, impacting three regions severely.
The consequences extend beyond agriculture, as many people have lost their homes. Some growers have experienced complete crop loss, while others find their fields submerged in mud or covered in debris. The cleanup process will be extensive and labor-intensive. In some cases, the rain and flooding have inflicted severe damage to orchards, leaving the crops vulnerable to potential frost damage, particularly for plums and cherries that are currently in bloom.
Orozco acknowledges that the recent rainfall, though challenging, carries a dual significance due to years of persistent drought. He explains, “The rain we’ve experienced recently can be seen as a mixed blessing, considering the prolonged drought we’ve endured. We are anticipating some more rainfall this week, although it’s not expected to be as intense as last week’s deluge. This winter has proven to be exceptionally wet. While this may pose difficulties, it’s also a welcome development, given that we’ve suffered through 15 years of drought. We are hopeful that our mountains will receive some snowfall, as it represents our most crucial water source for the summer season.”