Peruvian blueberry growers prove small is beautiful
The attraction of growing blueberries at a time when no one else could was the big drawcard for Chileans José Francisco Unzueta and Juan José Gajardo, who set off for Peru several years ago to set up a nursery.
Blueberries - Peru general maanger Unzueta, spoke to www.freshfruitportal.com about developing the business and the production differences between Peru and Chile.
He said they conducted "dedicated research" trying different varieties and sizes to see what worked best, trying nearly all types of unpatented commercial cultivars.
The company is currently growing traditional cultivars that the nursery manager has described as working "spectacularly" well.
Unzueta explained in Peru there are three types of terrain: the coast, the jungle and the highlands.
"In the jungle, it's logistically impossible to do anything as there are no roads. In the mountains it's quite interesting, there is a stretch with certain valleys that serves as an important growing area.
"The coast is generally good but it is necessary to have different and specialized management."
He commented that in Peru there were great hard-working and dedicated growers, and unlike in Chile, it was medium-sized farms driving nursery production.
"In Chile as growers we are not exporters, we work with exporters. In Peru everyone is an exporter. A farmer with 10 hectares of blueberries will look himself to export, looking for a client."
Unzueta said this meant you could know exactly what sells and where to aim your business.
"Obviously, there are management support companies but they don't do all the work. You do the packing, see the cold treatment rooms, and transport to the port. Things are far more negotiable.
"The thing which is clear, is that blueberry production does not need a person with 100 hectares. They know that with 10-15 hectares you can be a significant grower. That is the beauty of blueberries, with only a few hectares you can make money."
Another advantage is that Peruvian blueberries are a large size with a diameter of at least 15mms.
"It's spectacular, fruit is between 15-20mms and this means that management of the crop is cheaper."
Unzueta said Peru currently has 250 hectares devoted to blueberry cultivation but estimated that within the next year this figure is likely to double.
Peruvian blueberries are already being sold in supermarket chains.
"There is a large producer in Peru that is catering for the chains and can maintain six months' of supply because he is planting more crops.
"Peru has a number of advantages which have surprised us: growers' dedication, the ability to test in the field and cheap energy, water all year round, good weather and labor."
"Entrepreneurs have facilities that you can take and it's not complex to set up a small operation. You can achieve a very profitable project.
"Peru is growing well in a balanced way."
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