Chile: “We will seek free transit regulations to prevent port strikes”
Great challenges are ahead for the new president of Fedefruta, Juan Carolus Brown, who replaced Cristián Allendes. His team was formed yesterday, with the latter in it, as well as Felipe Garcia-Huidobro (first Vice President), Jorge Valenzuela (second Vice President), María Inés Figari (secretary), Antonio Walker Prieto, Domingo Romero, Ramón Achurra Larraín and Claudio Vergara, who will serve as head treasurer.
In an interview to Estrategia, the civil engineer from the Catholic University, MBA from the University of Chicago and grower (as part of the family business tradition), revealed the strategies he will adopt while in command at Fedefruta.
What are the main challenges you will face as president of FEDEFRUTA?
“In the next two years, we would like some regulation or free transit law for perishable goods to be approved, because we have had to face two port strikes during times when high fruit volumes are usually shipped, causing huge losses which will hopefully not happen again. Regarding labour issues, we want the temporary worker statutes to be approved; a project which has been presented, but that should be pushed forward so that people can be hired whenever they are needed. We wish to come to some agreement about the immigration of people willing to work in the agricultural sector, and we have also been summoned by the agricultural authority to assist in the modernisation of SAG.”
What do you think about the Government’s plan to reform the water regulations?
“We are primary users of water and we use those rights on a daily basis, unlike other sectors. We will try making sure that this doesn’t change.”
What do you mean with sectors that do not use their water rights allocated?
“Concerns arise from mining companies, which have water rights that they do not use, but are kept for future projects. And that should, in my opinion, be subject to regulation.”
How could the water ownership issue be resolved?
“The problem is that laws give too much power to mining firms; their water seems to be prioritised, and they are often given rights even when the channels are supposed to be depleted.”
Is the sector still hampered by droughts? It has been said rainy months are coming.
“Droughts are not over as soon as it starts to rain, and until reservoirs reach their normal levels, we cannot say that the problem has been overcome. We would need a cycle of about four or five years of rainfall for the crisis to be definitely resolved.”
Meanwhile, the dollar has reached a value of 550 pesos. Will this affect you?
“A dollar a little above the 550 pesos is better than at 450 pesos; we are happy with this. But the issue is similar to that of the droughts. We will have higher revenue in pesos than in previous years; however, for the financial situation of fruit exporters to normalise, the exchange rate levels need to stay like this for a while.”
What are the plans for the new fruit season?
“The frosts we had in September 2013 caused some problems, especially in the stone fruit sector, and those that survived will have a very good next season, with 20% higher prices and a production 15% larger.”
Publication date: 4/18/2014