Argentina changing blueberry varieties, says committee
Argentinean Blueberry Committee manager Inés Peláez has told www.freshfruitportal.com the country is making the switch to new varieties, while the exports around the corner are of 'excellent' quality.
The move shows Argentina's industry is responding to the difficult competitive environment it faces, with Chile increasingly overlapping with its market window and the potential for Peru and Mexico to cut in on the exclusive period even further.
The committee recently announced an expected 15.9% year-on-year increase in export volumes to 17,303MT this year.
"In general our quality is excellent. We are working on varietal replacement and looking to get ahead in the season to be able to meet demand attributes, particularly in matters of size. This is especially true in the regions of Tucuman and Concordia," says Peláez.
"As it is known, Argentina is particularly punished by high labor costs and the fixed exchange rate with the inputs in U.S. dollars. As for the climate we expect to have a reasonably good season.
"The frost period is ending but you can always have a problem at the last moment."
She says the committee will provide a good picture of the export pace to help contribute to the order of the market, "which in recent years has lacked accurate and reliable information, to allow decisions to be made in terms of promotions and other crucial issues of trade".
Peláez says around 5,200 metric tons (MT) of blueberries are expected from the province of Tucuman this year, along with 8,000MT from Concordia, 3,500MT from Buenos Aires and the remaining volumes from the central provinces of San Luis and Santa Fe.
Change to 'survive'
Giumarra Agricom International blueberry expert Tom Richardson has told www.freshfruitportal.com that Argentine growers need to introduce new varieties to survive.
"I think they will have to do what the rest of the producers are doing, which is removing the less profitable varieties - in Buenos Aires you have growers that are still producing Oneal, and the Oneal variety at that time is competing against the more desirable varieties in Chile," he says.
"So not only does Chile have the advantage in the cost of production and transportation, but they also have a piece of fruit that’s producing a better crop in the same amount of acreage, and a lot of the export companies are actually saying to the growers – ‘that variety from that region, sorry, we cannot take it, we cannot help you'.
"The ones who don’t have the capital to make this transition so that their production per hectare is greater, that can’t lower their costs, can’t find markets for their fruit with the right varieties, they’re going to struggle to survive."
Richardson applauds the Argentinean Blueberry Committee's efforts to improve its publication of statistics, with the industry hopeful the accurate flow continues.
"Probably the information from Argentina has been less available and less accurate, so I think there’s room for improvement there. We marketing companies are quite dependent on that, and it makes a huge difference if a large volume is coming versus a small volume, so in order for us to maximize results for the grower, accurate information is key."
Newport Cargo has contracted 50 planes from Lan Cargo to freight blueberries from the province of Tucuman to destinations including Miami, Los Angeles, Toronto and London, website Apratuc.com reported.