Argentina blueberries: Shipping, labor costs challenge industry -

Argentina blueberries: Shipping, labor costs challenge industry

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Argentina blueberries: Shipping, labor costs challenge industry

As blueberry growers in Tucuman, Argentina, prepare the fields for harvest, they also are facing a complex market in which shipping and labor costs will determine whether they make a profit in the 2010 season, La Gaceta said.

Prices for the fruit overseas have recovered from 2008 lows caused by the global economic crisis, the newspaper said. Still, harvesting the labor-intensive crop, which must be shipped by plane, requires careful management, the newspaper said.

Growers say they depend on competitive rates for flights carrying their product to market so that all fruit that is fit for export can make it to consumers. In 2009, a public-private partnership sent 25 flights with blueberries directly to market, and Tucuman growers hope to increase that number to have some predictability in costs, the newspaper said.

Similarly, the market price must cover the cost of labor. Blueberries must be picked by hand, and it is estimated that the industry would need 15,000 day workers picking 55 to 66 pounds each daily to reach a goal of nearly 5,000 tons of harvested blueberries. Complicating matters is that many of the workers receive state support and do not want to lose it by working too much in the blueberry fields.

And signs from blueberry-importing countries are not completely clear. Some nations have recovered well from the 2008 economic crisis, while others are still struggling. Conditions for growers in Tucuman have improved. In 2008, hit by the economic crisis and frost, some growers left fruit on the vine because market prices did not cover harvesting and packing, La Gaceta said.

Source: Fresh Fruit Portal

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