Producers warned of price pressures from retailers Chilean fuit growers have been told that only the best will survive as European supermarkets continue to come under intense pressure to be profitable, competitive, and environmentally conscious. Roger Manning, director general of the Chilean Fresh Fruit Association, European, ­ which represents export interests ­ warned the growers that prices were being lowered to retain customers and cost pressures were being passed on to suppliers at every stage of the chain. "Only the best will survive in the new environment of merger and takeover," he said. "Many retailers have felt the pinch, but retailing as a sector in Europe has been surprisingly indecisive about the direction it should take." Manning said the coming season would be difficult for everyone. "The Chilean growers lack unity but, if they worked together, they could more than compete with other key southern hemisphere suppliers," he said. Investment in production is key if Chilean fruit growers are to be competitive with neighbouring suppliers. Luis Schmidt, president of Fedafruta, the 400-strong growers' federation, urged growers to invest for efficiency and new planting, which has been static. Benefits were already being felt from Fedefruta's role in launching the Chilean good agricultural practice programme, he said. Although the industry had suffered four difficult seasons, Schmidt said there was confidence in long-term. Schmidt disclosed that export programmes had dropped 3% in value to US$1.4bn. Volume was down by 9.5% to 1.4 million tonnes. Europe accounted for 23.2% of volume sales. The upturn in the dollar exchange rate ­ critical as growers pay their bills in pesos, but get paid in dollars ­ the 10% improvement in the past six months had been a contributory factor to European reductions. Volume sales, Chile to Europe Products (tonnes) 99/2000 98/99 (%) Grapes 578,410 +20.2 Red apples 304,517 -31 Pears 114,199 -25.3 Kiwifruit 100,556 +10.7 Green apples 82,255 -30.4 Plums 51,429 -37.7 Nectarines 42,077 -20.11 Peaches 30,708 -9.7 {{FRESH PRODUCE }}