Fast facts About the Chilean Food Industry & Specialty Food Exports

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Chilean Food – Uniquely Natural

Chile is a country of startling contrasts and extreme beauty. Located on the west coast of South America’s tapering cone, is 2,700 miles long and uniquely narrow. Its average width is only 110 miles. Its length and extraordinarily diverse geography provides an unsurpassed climatic range and soils that are suitable for a very wide range of food production.  Chile exports a wide variety of high-quality food products to the most competitive and discerning markets in the world.

Chile has become a food producing and exporting powerhouse because of its privileged natural conditions for food production, entrepreneurial spirit, democratic stability, commitment to free trade, environmental sustainability, and sound economic management. Chile enjoys low inflation and fiscal surplus that have been key elements for facing the economic crisis successfully. Chile’s unique natural gifts combined with its skilled agricultural professionals and technologically advanced infrastructure give Chile the ability to produce and export a tremendous variety of whole and processed foods of unsurpassed quality, purity, and consistency. 

Chile is a leading producer and exporter of some of the world’s finest fruits, berries, vegetables, fish, shellfish, poultry, meats, and, of course, its premium wines. Chile is the world’s largest exporter of fresh grapes (29%), plums (23%), and fresh fish fillets (22%); second largest exporter of frozen pacific salmon (30%), avocados (16%), and other frozen fish (10%). Chile is the fifth largest exporter in the world of wine (5%) and frozen pork meat (5%). [Source: Chilean International Economic Affair Figures 2006; Direcon.]

Chilean foods are consistently awarded for their taste and quality in international food competitions.  For example, Chilean olive oils have garnered international acclaim at competitions including the Leone D'Oro dei Mastri Oleari 2006, Parma, Italia, and the Sol d’Oro 2006, Diploma di Gran Menzione. In addition, a Chilean cheese received the American Cheese Society award, while Chilean lamb was recognized as the Best Organic Product from ANUGA.

As a southern-hemisphere country, Chile’s growing seasons run counter to the growing seasons of countries in the northern hemisphere. Chile can thus supply the highest quality fresh fruits and vegetables to northern hemisphere countries during their winter months. Chilean vegetables, fruits, berries, fish, shellfish, and meats are exported to consuming countries as fresh, frozen and processed foods, in both regular and increasingly, in organic forms.

Chile’s prodigious food production is the result of the convergence of several factors:

  • Exceptionally fertile soils and pristine waters are in large part the result of Chile’s natural geographical remoteness—the country has natural barriers that protect it from the diseases and parasites common to most other agricultural areas. Chile is considered one of the world’s naturally cleanest environments for food production. Chile’s diverse climates enable food production throughout the country. In the north, the desert provides habitat for goats, and tropical conditions for carica; the central Mediterranean climate is ideal for produce, olives and wines; the region to the south provides a habitat for dairy and salmon; Patagonia provides excellent conditions for meat production; and the cold Pacific waters are home to high-quality seafood.
  • Chile’s agricultural statistics tell a story of dramatic growth:
    • Chile’s food industry, which includes fruit, salmon, wine, processed foods, meats, and seafood products, is one of the most dynamic sectors of the Chilean economy. It represents around 24% of the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) and it is the second most important exporting sector.
    • The Chilean food industry employs more than 1 million people, representing around 20% of the country’s workforce. It is expected that by the year 2030, the GDP generated by the food sector will account for more than 35% of Chile’s GDP and 1 out of 3 workers will have jobs within the sector.
    • Chile is ranked 17th amongst the world’s leading food exporting countries. Its food exports have grown at an average annual rate of approximately 10% over the past 10 years, making it the world’s fastest growing food exporter. If this rate of growth continues, by 2010, Chile will be among the top ten food exporters in the world.
    • Chile supplies more than 150 countries around the globe with fresh and processed foods and beverages.

Food Purity, Wholesomeness & Service

Worldwide, consumers prize Chile’s food products for their purity and wholesomeness, the result of Chile’s state-of-the-art farming techniques and uniquely isolated, diverse geography.

With the Pacific Ocean abutting the entire country’s length to the west, the towering Andes Mountains to the east, Antarctica territory to the south and the Atacama Desert to the north, Chile is naturally protected from the parasites and diseases that plague most other growing regions of the world. Thus, Chilean farmers use significantly less agrochemicals than most food producing regions in the world.

Chile’s food industry is committed to serving its international customers with the best service, supported by superior communications, transportation, and technological infrastructures.

Chilean Seafood

Chilean salmon, sea bass (also known as Patagonian toothfish), oysters, and scallops are sought after by the world’s most demanding connoisseurs.

Chile’s close-in coastal waters and its Exclusive Economic Zone (200 nautical miles) encompass three large marine ecosystems: The northern zone is where sardines, anchovies, and mackerel are fished; the central-southern zone is where open-ocean species such as the common hake (similar to cod) and crustaceans such as shrimp are found; and the southern zone where Chilean Salmon, sea bass, clams, sea urchins, abalones, king crab, and snow crab are harvested.

Chile’s fishing vessels are among the most technologically advanced in the world, and fishing countries such as South Korea, Norway, and Iceland purchase commercial fishing vessels manufactured in Chile.

Chile is a leader in aquaculture research. Chile has formed the Salmon Technological Institute (INTESAL) to research and promote best practices in aquaculture by certifying companies in accordance with international ISO standards.

Chile is the second largest world producer and exporter of salmon, short of Norway, the world’s current leader. Chile’s salmon industry is widely recognized for its advanced techniques and high-quality products. Salmon products range from fresh and frozen fish, to smoked and canned salmon. Chile exported over $2.2 billion worth of salmon products in 2006.

Chile is an active participant in forming international agreements aimed at protecting and preserving the world’s fisheries. For example, Chile is a party to the United Nations Convention on Law of the Sea, signed in 1982 and ratified in 1997. It is also a party to the Convention on the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources, signed in 1982, which is part of the Antarctic Treaty system.

Fresh Fruits & Vegetables

The mild, Mediterranean-style climate of Chile’s central region is ideal for growing fine-quality fruits and vegetables, both traditional as well as exotic varieties, which the country exports to 70 markets.

Because of Chile’s location in the southern hemisphere, it produces and supplies fresh fruits and vegetables to the main consumer markets in the northern hemisphere during those countries’ winter months.

Processed & Specialty Foods

Based on the range of high quality and fresh products available, Chile has naturally become an outstanding producer of processed fruit and vegetables and specialty foods, including:

  • olive oils
  • avocado oils
  • dried fruits
  • fruit preserves
  • fruit and vegetable pastes
  • raisins 
  • frozen berries
  • fruit juice concentrates
  • vinegars
  • dairy products
  • spices
  • preserved seafood
  • organic herbal teas

Processed foods from Chile are increasingly being recognized in international food competitions.

Chile is a trusted provider of processed food products for demanding international markets in America and Europe.

Chilean Meat & Poultry

Chile’s protective natural barriers of ocean, high mountains, desert, and glaciers have also protected its meat (pork, lamb, and beef) and poultry industries from the parasites and diseases common to most other countries. For example, Chile has never experienced any known cases of avian flu or Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy (BSE), commonly known as mad cow disease. In addition, Chile is free from all animal diseases registered on List A of the World Organization for Animal Health (OIE).

Chile maintains the very highest standards of sanitation and the most advanced and humane techniques for raising livestock and poultry.

Chile maintains best practices in order to guarantee livestock and poultry health and food safety, as well as workers’ safety and environmental sustainability.

Chile produces only all natural free-range beef. Grass fed beef has about the same fat content as skinless chicken and has been shown to be higher in heart friendly Omega-3 Fatty Acids, Beta-Carotene and Conjugated Linoleic Acid (CLA)