As a result of land appropriations from 1970 to 1973, extensive disinvestment occurred in the agricultural sector. The Pinochet government reversed this trend by returning lands to previous owners and providing incentives for increased exports. Although Chile was basically a net importer of agricultural goods from 1960 to 1970, by 1991 agricultural exports, as well as forestry and fishing exports, were becoming increasingly important in the economy. Whereas in 1970 Chile exported US$33 million in agriculture, forestry, and fishing products, by 1991 the figure had jumped to US$1.2 billion. This figure excluded those manufactured goods based on the products of the agriculture, livestock, and forestry sectors.
In the 1989-91 period, exports of fresh fruits became increasingly important. Data also indicate that production of grapes, pears, lemons, and peaches was expanding rapidly. The country's virtual monopoly on grape exports during the Northern Hemisphere's winter season was likely to disappear as other potential giants, such as Argentina, began to compete. The fruit-packing industry also expanded greatly, providing seasonal employment to thousands of workers in its refrigerated plants. Although fruit production takes place in small to medium-size landholdings, fruit-packing plants are very large operations. Indeed, six of the major fruit-packing plants generated more than half of all the boxes exported.
Chile's success in export agriculture was not confined to fruits. Also increasing significantly was production of more traditional crops, many of which were devoted primarily to domestic consumption. Much of the increased agricultural production in the country was the result of rapidly improving yields and higher productivity. These figures are particularly impressive if compared with historical data. For example, in the 1969-70 agricultural year, wheat's yield was 12.5 quintals per hectare, that of corn was 32.4 tons per hectare, and that of potatoes was 95.4 tons per hectare. By 1990-91 these yields had increased to 34.1 quintals of wheat per hectare, 83.9 quintals of corn per hectare, and 142.2 quintals of potatoes per hectare.
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