Argentine blueberry roundup and the challenges ahead
Argentinean Blueberry Committee (ABC) manager Inés Peláez has told www.freshfruitportal.com the industry registered a 3% rise in shipments to 15,800 metric tons (MT).
"We shipped fewer blueberries than the volume that we estimated because of the breakdown in prices near week 42 in the U.S.A., and in terms of growth Argentina was almost stable," she says.
"Europe registered a very interesting growth of 27% for continental Europe and 12% for the U.K., while the U.S. and Asia remain stable.
"In Asia it was like this maybe because there were no shipments this year to Japan because of the recent barriers in this country for Argentinean blueberries."
U.S. arrivals were down 3% at 9,616MT, Canadian purchases grew by 4% to 1,008MT, while Continental Europe and the U.K. stood at 1,916MT and 2,839MT respectively.
Argentina may have faced declines in blueberry plantation area over recent years, but the 2011-12 season showed a slight rise in exports on 2010-11.
Peláez says it was a very good season in terms of quality, with warm weather and rainfall that allowed harvests to continue without problems, but there have been some economic challenges.
"In terms of returns to growers is very difficult to achieve the break even point. Labor costs are very high and production costs are in dollars, which is almost fixed in our country," she says.
"All these issues are against the growers who every year need to think if they will go out of the business or if they continue.
"Labor is also complicated like it is in Chile, and we have also an additional issue of government social plans. This plans are over when the worker begins to work in a legal way, and they don't want to lose their benefits for a job that lasts only a few weeks."
She adds that inflation and state policies work against exporters by making business difficult, but Argentina's relevance in the global blueberry market will remain.
"Argentina is still working hard on its blueberries' quality and is considered a critical player in the off-season supply for Northern Hemisphere.
"Also, there is a high impact on different communities, as these regional economies provide work for a lot of people."