Blueberries - South America's new season
Blueberries grow in hot weather, thankfully, we can enjoy them year-round because summer happens twice on the earth. In North-America, the blueberry season runs from April to September, whereas in South-America runs from October to March.
In this article, we'll discuss the principal blueberry producers in South-America and what they can expect this year as they face the challenge of the coronavirus pandemic.
There are four major producers in South America (lbs per year):
- Chile, with 223.2 million.
- Argentina. 34 million.
- Uruguay. With 5.5 million.
- Peru. 4.6 million.
The consequences of the coronavirus pandemic in the production of fresh fruit are hard to quantify at this point. However, the industry has kept working to maintain a steady supply worldwide.
There will undoubtedly be an impact on the world economy and changes in consumer habits that, in some cases, can become permanent behaviors. There will be significant challenges, but also opportunities.
The Chilean blueberry industry is working to adapt quickly as demand for this fruit increases. Larger volumes mean extra challenges to offer a high-quality product or meeting minimum requirements for exportation.
If we look at the figures for Chile, where volumes are still around 110 thousand tons exported, with drops in shipments to North America and growth in Europe and Asia, everything may seem normal.
It is necessary to pay a closer look at the numbers to see what is happening. For example, shipments to North America are down for the second year in a row.
However, organic produce continues to grow, and what has come out of the supply are mainly varieties that in previous seasons were very demanded but not now.
A lot of land surface has been renovated, and more and more varieties that are more productive have surfaced, have a good post-harvest, and the good flavor that characterizes the national blueberry.
A new systems approach published recently will allow producers to export to The United States without fumigating the crops. For all this, the Chilean market is optimistic. As long as the quality of the blueberries is good, there is growth potential.
Last year Uruguay exported 95 tons of fruit worth more than 72 million dollars, 38% of which went to the European Union.
Uruguay offers great advantages for the cultivation of blueberries, such as fertile lands, a suitable climate, and responsible production. The geographical location, with stations inverse to the markets of Europe and the United States, makes the country a strategic supplier.
Despite being a recent activity, the local cultivation of blueberries has shown extraordinary dynamism. In the last decade, it was the fruit with the most development in terms of volumes produced and exported.
Uruguayan blueberries have a hard time competing in the Chinese market currently. As Uruguayan blueberries have a 30% import tariff in China, they are less competitive when compared to Chilean blueberries, which can be imported into China without any tariff.
Uruguay's higher labor and energy costs drive up the price of its blueberries.
The blueberry companies Blueforest and Gamorel, mention challenges in the transportation of loads. It takes more than 45 days for Uruguayan blueberries to arrive in China by sea. Such a long journey might hurt fruit quality and freshness, and for the moment, air shipments seem to be the only logical transportation choice, which is why shipping to the European Union makes sense.
Argentina is one of the main players in the global market, exporting blueberries for over 20 years.
Its geographical location gives it the advantage of having counter-season crop, which means it can supply during periods of low production in the countries of the Northern Hemisphere.
The main export destinations are the U.S., which represents 60% of the total exports, followed by Continental Europe and the U.K. with 30%, and Canada, and Asia.
Argentina’s exports have stagnated at around 15,000 tons, representing 10% of the total blueberry offer in the commercial window from August to December in 2019.
Argentina is seeking to position itself in the blueberry industry of the world as a niche producer with advantages and differentiation values based on its fair producing practices and its labor, health, social, and safety laws.
The main challenge of the season is transporting the blueberries. Because of the coronavirus pandemic, lights were delayed, and it was necessary to work with the airlines to ensure shipments.
Argentina is optimistic because the demand for blueberries grew significantly.