Chile: indigenous association raspberry exporter marks growth
A Chilean indigenous group formed from seasonal workers has successfully more than doubled its exports of organic raspberries to the United States in the 2012-13 season.
The Lautaro Mapuche Association "Amuley" sent its first shipments of the fruit in 2011-12, after 29 families decided to use the knowledge gained from years of farming experience and export directly to one of the world's most demanding markets.
Association leader Francisco Cheuque Ancaten told www.freshfruitportal.com that even though the weather in the Araucania region has not been the best in recent years, growers are very pleased with the results.
He said the main goal was to send a natural product that carries identity and quality with it to consumers.
"We take care of nature and that has a great value for people who are aware of what it means. We are very well regarded by people from other countries. In Chile the value of that isn't taken," he said.
"We treat our fields in a 100% organic way, not just with raspberries but with potatoes, cereals, etcetera, because we want our fields to go back to being natural as they were before.
Amuley registered 20 metric tons (MT) in its first season and expanded to send 45MT this recent season, with 40 farmers now involved. Cheuque said the group did not restrict its sourcing to only indigenous farmers.
"We worked with nine communities in Lautaro and now we are bringing together others outside the area. We started as a legal indigenous entity, but we realized that we cannot be discriminatory and decided to be cooperative to include non-Mapuche producers. They are a great addition for us, as we are for them too."
In a press release from CONADI, a group that helped the association with CLP50 million (US$105,764) for buying equipment, national director Jorge Retamal Rubio said Amuley was a great example of entrepreneurship.
"We congratulate the Mapuche group "Amuley" because what they have done is very important, because of their associative work, and because the government of President Sebastián Piñera has always encouraged the productive development of Mapuche lands," he said.
In 2011, CONADI funded an Amuley trip to California where the growers decided to adopt the Meeker variety of raspberries.
"This is a very resilient and adaptable variety, with which we have had excellent results, even now we are selling plants to producers in other parts of the country," Cheuque added.
He said the association was also interested in exporting organic lupine, which can be used as a natural fertilizer.