Chile a natural contender for expanding niche market; California to begin earlier Chile is set to make a bid to expand a substantial share of the winter cherry market in the years ahead. Multiples are eager to develop year-round continuity, and winter crops are particularly difficult to source. However Chile's wide range of climate and expertise in growing deciduous fruit make it a natural contender, believe trade sources. "The frost free dry microclimate makes it ideal," said Rodrigo Duran, commercial manager of David Del Cuerto, one of the country's largest fruit exporters. "We have a three-month season, longer than anyone else in the world." As a result production is increasing fast. Around one million cartons of Bings were exported to world markets last season, with the EU receiving nearly a third. This will only be the tip of the iceberg in the years ahead if crop projects are fulfilled. Planting has now reached 5,300 hectares, double the volume compared with last year. This could mean a five million carton crop within four years. Growers are concentrating on a wide range of Canadian varieties like Sweetheart, Suntina and Newstar. DDC has exclusive rights to 20, which should eventually boost its production to 500,000 cartons. - Californian cherry imports to the Uk are on line to begin earlier this season, according to Jim Cuthbertson, manager of the state's crop advisory board. Latest estimates point to a reasonable sized crop which could reach three million cartons, of which nearly half are exported. Europe could become more significant this season as the Californians have been attracted by the success of Washington State which follows on. A main plank of the initiatve is the development of earlier varieties available in mid May such as Tulare and Brooks grown in the south of the state. Last year the UK received 30,000 cartons. {{M/E FRESH PRODUCE }}