Agriculture in Chile encompasses a wide range of different activities due to its particular geography, climate, geology and human factors. Historically agriculture is one of the bases of Chile’s economy, now agriculture and allied sectors—like forestry, logging and fishing—account only for 4.9% of the GDP as of 2007 and employed 13.6% of the country’s labor force. Some major agricultural products of Chile include grapes, apples, onions, wheat, corn, oats, peaches, garlic, asparagus, beans, beef, poultry, wool, fish and timber. Due to its geographical isolation and strict customs policies, Chile is free from diseases such as Mad Cow, fruit fly and Phylloxera, this plus being located in the southern hemisphere (having quite different harvesting times compared to the Northern Hemisphere) and its wide range of agriculture conditions are considered Chile’s main comparative advantages. However, the mountainous landscape of Chile limits the extent and intensity of agriculture so that arable land corresponds only to 2.62% of the total territory.
Chile’s principal growing region and agricultural heartland is the Central Valley bounde by the Chilean Coast Range to the west, the Andes to the east Aconcagua River to the north and Bío-Bío River to the south. In the northern half of Chile, cultivation is highly dependent on irrigation. South of the Central Valley, cultivation is gradually replaced by aquaculture, silviculture, sheep and cattle farming.
Chile is the second largest producer of salmon in the world. As of August 2007, Chile’s share of worldwide salmon industry sales was 38.2%, rising from just 10% in 1990. The average growth rate of the industry for the 20 years between 1984 and 2004 was 42% per year. The presence of large foreign firms in the salmon industry has brought what probably most contributes to Chile’s burgeoning salmon production, technology. Technology transfer has allowed Chile to build its global competitiveness and innovation and has led to the expansion of production as well as to an increase in average firm size in the industry. In November 2018, the Chinese company Joyvio Group (Legend Holdings) bought the Chilean salmon producer Australis Seafoods for $880 million, thus gaining control over 30% of all Chilean salmon exports.
The Chilean forestry industry grew to comprise 13% of the country’s total exports in 2005, making it one of the largest export sectors for Chile. Radiata Pine and Eucalyptus comprise the vast majority of Chile’s forestry exports. Within the forestry sector, the largest contributor to total production is pulp, followed by wood-based panels and lumber. Due to popular and increasing demands for Chile’s forestry products, the government is currently focusing on increasing the already vast acreage of Chile’s Pine and Eucalyptus plantations as well as opening new industrial plants.
Chile’s unique geography and climate make it ideal for winegrowing and the country has made the top ten list of wine producers many times in the last few decades.
The popularity of Chilean wine has been attributed not just to the quantity produced but also to increasing levels of quality. The combination of quantity and quality allows Chile to export excellent wines at reasonable prices to the international market.