The sweet taste from the South: a gift from Chile to Philadelphia
Have you ever wondered where those strawberries in your breakfast come from? Or the papayas, mangoes and pineapples that make fantastic smoothies? We are frequently used to buying fruits without realizing that we have access to some that are not produced in our country or that normally grow in summer and yet we can buy them in winter without a problem. We only notice the label that we must remove - with some nuisance, to be honest - every time we wash it and that timidly reads "Chile".
To think that the sweet and tasty apple traveled from a long and narrow country in the south of the continent ends up on our table is a reflection that we rarely do.
Even less could we imagine that almost all the fruits we get at the supermarket are proudly Chilean.
This was our pleasant discovery when we attended the international business, fruit and vegetable export event in Chile, better known as Fruittrade, last Wednesday in the city of Santiago. This is an event that "puts in direct contact Chilean producers / exporters with buyers from both Chile and abroad", and one of them is the United States.
Organized by Fedefruta (Federation of Fruit Producers of Chile), and with the support of the Chilean government through the Ministry of Agriculture and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the event offers producers and investors an exchange platform that provides fruit to the tables of millions of people around the world.
That is why Christina Lista (executive director of the Chilean and American Chamber of Commerce of Greater Philadelphia) and Miriam Borja-Fisher (director of commercial development for Western Fumigation and treasurer of the Chilean and American Chamber of Commerce in Philadelphia) were present, to understand first hand the origin of so many products that Americans consume today.
"We are here to meet our partners, with whom we have been working for almost 30 years, through the Chamber," says Christina with a smile of excitement since is her first time as a participant in the event.
The CACCGP is a non-profit, apolitical membership organization created to “foster increased and improved commercial and trade relations between the Republic of Chile and the Greater Philadelphia region”. It also represents the region of New York, Delaware and Pittsburgh, which provides an exchange platform for participation in a wide range of business activities and programs.
"Almost 70% of the fruit that’s exported to the US comes through the Philadelphia area. From my perspective, this is because of the relationships that we’ve formed between the people of our region and Chile. They have welcomed us with open arms and it has been an incredible experience," says Lista.
And with good reason: the great production of fruit in Chilean territory goes unnoticed for much of the population.
When we talk about "Latin American fruits" the image that usually comes to mind is that of Carmen Miranda (Brazilian actress who became an icon for the fruit basket in her head), who represented the "flavor" of the tropics in the world’s cultural imaginary during the decade of the 40s.
Few understand and assume that fruit production in Latin America is a business that has taken off and shows no sign of lowering its standards.
With an average of 300,000 hectares planted between the regions of Atacama and Los Lagos, Chile is today the largest producer of fruit and forestry products in the hemisphere. According to the report of the Bureau of Agricultural Policies and Studies, this sector produces "about 5 million tons of fruit, of which 2.6 million are exported as fresh fruit", generating an income of 4,000 million dollars per year, its star products being table grapes and blueberries.
Lemons, almonds, strawberries, cherries, avocados, kiwifruit, apples and pears are just some of the Chilean products that reach tables as distant as the European ones and now the Asian ones, through about 800 national exporting companies and countries.
As explained by Luis Schmidt (President of Fedefruta), the three largest markets in Chile are the United States, Europe and Latin America, and from 2016 its market has opened to Asia, which today represents 40% of the world's population.
Between 2009 and 2017, fruit exports to the United States increased from almost US $ 2.5 billion FOB (Free on board) to US $ 3 billion, of which 70% entered, as Christina Lista pointed out, through the Philadelphia area.
The importance of this type of commercial exchange for the Philadelphian population is not at all negligible. According to Miriam Borja-Fisher, from her perspective as a Latina who has lived all her life in the United States: "This is something very well accepted and known, that the southern countries produce and export fruits for the winter time. Some of us, who are a little bit older, can remember how in the 70's and 80's, it was very limited what fruits you could eat in the winter. Although the grapes were grown in California, in winter we had no grapes, we didn’t have all the fresh fruits we now enjoy thanks to Chile, because of all Latin countries."
Although it was almost 30 years ago, the opening of this trade as a channel of exchange makes us think about the potential of the Latin category inside and outside the American community. The Latin American product is today a concept of debate, either from the human workforce perspective within the United States or as economic potential of Latin nations that are part of the exchange in international trade.
One way or another, the Latin flavor is not only idiosyncratic but also economic, and demonstrates the strength and benefits that can arise when, instead of walls, we consciously decide to forge bridges.