Productivity hurdle for Uruguay's blueberries

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Productivity hurdle for Uruguay's blueberries

Uruguay's horticultural union says the country's blueberry industry has a long way to go in terms of productivity and investment, despite export volumes that grew by 80% in 2010, website reported.

Uruguay Horticulture Producers and Exporters Union (UPEFRUY) president Horacio Ozer, told the website most companies have not broken even with blueberry harvests and are still in need of investment.

"It's not like other extensive crops that go to export 1.5 million (metric) tons, meaning substantial income for the sector," he was quoted as saying.

UPEFRUY secretary Alberto Peverelli told Ultimas Noticias 'the numbers of gold were not there', following a situation that was poorly analyzed by forecasters.

After the global financial crisis in 2008 Uruguay cut around 100 hectares of blueberry farms, but the country has now stabilized to hold around 800 hectares of the crop, the story reported.

Ozer said Uruguay faced many problems such as exchange rates, energy costs, fuel and freight, while the cost of labor was higher than in Chile and Argentina in terms of productivity, the story reported.

He said the average Uruguayan fruit picker would harvest 20kg (44lbs) daily, while for the same money a Chilean worker would harvest 40kg (88lbs) and an Argentinian would pick between 30kg (66lbs) and 35kg (77lbs), Ultimas Noticias reported.

"This is a business of volumes, not prices," he was quoted as saying.

UPEFRUY has estimated the country's cultivation area could reach 1,200 hectares with annual exports of 5,000 metric tons (MT) by 2014, the story reported.


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