Uruguayan blueberry crisis needs tech injection
Low profitability has pushed the country's blueberry industry into crisis with 16% of cultivated areas neglected by farmers, newspaper El Observador Agropecuario reported.
Uruguay Blueberry Producers' Union (UPROA) president Juan Pablo Furest, told the newspaper 11% of blueberry farms were abandoned, while the neglected areas were still under irrigation but were not pruned or fertilized.
"It's necessary to address the lifting of impediments that we have been suffering, and that we have taken on in the context of the government settling its economic policies," Furest was quoted as saying.
He attributed difficulties to low crop and labor productivity, as well as an absence of credit for the industry, calling on businesses to look at the crop from an industrial point of view, the story reported.
Blueberries have been the country's fastest growing fruit in the last 10 years in volume terms, while expectations were for average yields of between 8,000kg/ha and 10,000kg/ha for seven-year-old trees.
But Furest said for the last nine years the crop has yielded between just 3,000kg/ha and 4,000kg/ha.
"Today more than ever, volumes are required to convert it into a profitable crop, so you should take all the factors that influence our productivity to reach those said values," he was quoted as saying.
"Today we have an environment of 25kg per person per day. If we could double that we could see a notable improvement in the productivity of labor, and that's a heavy factor.
"Plantation of the crop happened without the help of different governments, for example in lines of credit for goods and capital or for pre-export."
He said on the industrial side the blueberry industry needed more alternatives to enhance profitability like shipping technologies, mechanized harvesting and export packaging.