March 5, 2010 / 8:27 PM / 9 years ago

Chile quake hits key fish, pulp and fruit sectors

* Apple exports seen down 5 percent in 2010 after quake

* Salmon farms mostly south of hardest hit areas

* Paper prices seen rising on pulp processing damage (Recasts, adds damage details, fishery sector, pulp)

By Mica Rosenberg and Alonso Soto

SANTIAGO, March 5 (Reuters) - Chile’s key fruit, pulp and fish exports were hit by a massive weekend earthquake that knocked down power lines, mangled roads, and washed away entire towns in coastal areas dotted by apple plantations and pine forests.

The 8.8-magnitude quake that killed hundreds of people and sparked violent looting largely spared the country’s linchpin copper industry, but infrastructure damage is seen as a lingering risk to one of Latin America’s most stable economies.

Consumers of apples, wine and paper could see prices increase as Chile, a major producer of those products, slowly recovers from one of biggest quakes on record.

Chile’s top fruit exporter group Fedefruta said downed electricity lines and destroyed roads pose a threat to fruit exports in the world’s No. 3 apple exporter.

Apple exports could drop 5 percent from the group’s original 2010 estimate of 745,000 tonnes after the quake hit cooling installations that keep fruit fresh in farms, Fedefruta’s head Rodrigo Echeverria told Reuters on Friday.

"This is an initial estimate after damage to farms’ infrastructure," Echeverria said. "What’s important now is to prevent further damage to (fruit) production."

Chile is one of the world’s top producers of table grapes, and while the plantations were unharmed unstable energy supply could interrupt irrigation systems. Avocado crops could be hit with the same problem, he said.


Chile is also the world’s No. 2 producer of salmon, generating around $2 billion in annual revenues, according to the country’s top fishing association Sonapesca. But most of the fish farms are located south of the quake-hit area.

"The damage is not quantified yet but in terms of infrastructure it is not significant," a salmon industry source told Reuters, asking not to be named.

The salmon sector is already reeling from a virus that will likely cut 2010 exports by 40 percent to 245,000 tonnes, the top industry association SalmonChile said in February.

Aside from salmon, Chile exports other fish and fish products and half of that sector’s infrastructure in the area around the hard-hit city of Concepcion was damaged by the quake, said Hector Bacigalupo, Sonapesca’s general manager.

"The fishing fleet was not damaged. Processing plants, ports, and warehouses" were hit, Bacigalupo said.

Chile produces between 4 million and 4.5 million tonnes of fish a year, not including salmon, but the industry has not yet calculated the size of the potential losses.


Paper prices are seen climbing after the quake damaged pulp plants in the Bio Bio region, disrupting supply in one of the world’s top producers of cellulose.

Chilean forestry conglomerate CMPC (CAR.SN) stopped all but three pulp plants due to the quake. The forestry arm of competitor Copec (COP.SN) said it will not produce pulp during March after most of its installations were damaged.

The South American country accounts for around 9 percent of the world’s pulp, which is used to make paper, and the losses from the quake could push paper prices up, global pulp processors say. [nLDE6241A5][nN03113385]

Chile’s emblematic wine industry lost 125 million liters worth $250 million after the tremor overturned stainless steel vats, broke oak barrels and bottles, a U.S. importer said on Thursday. [ID:nN04174492] (Editing by Jim Marshall)

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