The blueberry paths ahead for Peru and Mexico

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The blueberry paths ahead for Peru and Mexico

The Peruvian and Mexican blueberry industries may be incipient with very different strengths and weaknesses, but both are on the path to greater production of the super fruit. At we speak with several industry players about the expertise needed to develop blueberry farming in both nations, and their respective competitive issues with Chile and the U.S.

When mention is made of Latin American blueberries it is usually Chile that comes first to mind, most likely followed by Argentina and Uruguay. But now there are two new players on the scene that could make a bigger impact - Mexico and Peru.

According to Mexico's blueberry exporters association Aneberries, while the country may only have 1,000 hectares of the fruit planted, exporters have several advantages, "being next to the largest blueberry market in the world (United States), with climates and soils that are favorable for producing during nine months of the year".

"There is space in the market for all participants as consumption grows, and in the case of Chile we know that they have become the main exporter from the Southern Hemisphere through good work," says an Aneberries representative.

"Here in Mexico we have a great consideration and respect for them. However, we believe we have the potential to achieve better quality and have better conditions for more permanance in the market."

While Mexico has the potential, Aneberries general manager Blanca Nelly Partido notes there will be a few difficulties for the industry, which will require the best expertise.

"The blueberry market has broad competition with growers from the U.S. and it is very segmented," she says.

"We need to find the necessary expertise to achieve good quality yields and have more varieties, as now it's mostly the Biloxi variety that's available.

She says work also needs to be done in the Mexican domestic market to promote blueberry consumption, as currently the culture for it is not there.

Chilean influence, and difference

Like Mexico, Peru too needs expertise to improve its blueberry industry, which Inform@cción president Fernando Cillóniz says only exported around 6.5 metric tons (MT) in 2011 with a freight on board (FOB) value of US$83,466, and the U.S., the Netherlands and Belgium as the main markets.

"As has happened with almost all fruits that Peru currently exports, it has been Chilean technicians who have carried out trials and commercially exploited the said products afterwards," he says.

"If blueberries are converted into another success story, like table grapes, avocadoes, asparagus, etc, a large part of the merit will have been from Chilean technicians.

"We have the opportunity to supply the United States and European markets from September to October every year, when Chile still doesn't have blueberries and prices are too high."

He adds it is important to note Peru must always work with the evergreen blueberries that have been developed in Florida and not with those developed for cold climates, such as the blueberry varieties grown in Chile.

"The lack of cold hours and acid soils on the coast makes adequate production of blueberries difficult," he says.

New horizons

For agricultural policy specialist and international consultant José Manuel Hernández, Peru's blueberry future is bright and the country will "undoubtedly become a serious competitor for Chile"; not just in opportunity but in supply volume, from 2014 onwards.

"We can produce from September to March and supply from mid-September to mid-November with an early supply in moments of scarcity in the Northern Hemisphere, where production is concentrated between April and October," he says.

He says Peru's supply coincides with market peaks which will lead to good profits.

"A price of US$7/kg during normal periods is not the same as a price of US$12/kg or more during early periods," he says.

"The high demand and good prices in growing and demanding international markets, with which we have free trade agreements, are opportunities that Peruvian production can make the most of."

He says the country is still starting and sees the United States as its main potential market.

"According to market research, the view of exporters is oriented towards the U.S., the U.K., the Netherlands and Germany. The interested companies are associated with chains that handle international logistics very well, which ensures the placement of our products without affecting quality.


Hernández says financing is still an obstacle on Peru's path to blueberry success.

"The installation of such crops is costly. This is the biggest constraint. Certified plants cost between US$2-6 depending on the size, age or variety and the total installation cost before production is estimated between US$40,000-60,000 per hectare, depending on the types of plants used and the seeding system," he says.

Due to this problem, initiatives such as the Sierra Exportadora program have been set up to assist growers.

"The Sierra Exportadora program has undertaken the promotion of blueberry and other berry production across the supply chain, with financing requirements, technical assistance, organization and exports.

If successful, the Sierra-Perú Fund is expected to support the production of 5,000 hectares of blueberries and 2,000 hectares of raspberries in the Peruvian highlands, with an export value of around US$1 billion.

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