Opinion: Peru's promise on the blueberry market

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Opinion: Peru's promise on the blueberry market

By Federico Beltrán M., general manager of Terra Business SAC

Foto-Federico-BeltránBlueberry consumption grows by an annual rate of 20% on the main markets and it is clear that the fruit is far from reaching its ceiling.

One of the main reasons for this growth is the health benefits of blueberry consumption and the high concentration of antioxidants.

Medical studies financed by the U.S. Highbush Blueberry Council (USHBC) show the benefit of consumption to treat hypertension, cancer, brain injuries and diabetes. It can also decrease the risk of Alzheimer's and gout.

The pursuit of health is an important driver for consumption, but it's not the only one. Recent studies show that category growth among youth can be attributed to the perception that fruit is tasty, fun and easy to eat.

It is impressive to see promotional campaign in countries like England and the United States. The results are successful and blueberries continue to be the most profitable product per unit area in the retail industry.

In Peru, thanks to access to modern genetics, we can overcome the myth that blueberries can only be grown in the mountains.

It is now clear that competitive blueberry plantations can be developed on the coast. A number of factors contribute to a strong offering: light soil, good quality water, a stable climate, absence of rain during harvest, available workforce and logistical facilities.

Pioneering businesses have shown that it is possible to arrive to markets between September and October, which can build on growing world demand and higher prices.

However, it is a sophisticated crop that faces a demanding market for safety and quality. Worldwide, there are 25 million hectares of potatoes and less than 100 hectares of blueberries.

Like in all competitive businesses, there are winners and losers. It is important not to overestimate the benefits or underestimate the risks.

The business vision is to complement other offerings like grapes, avocados, citrus or pomegranates, which have high rankings on the international market.

As a generator of wealth and jobs, blueberries emerge as a great alternative to use labor and distribution channels all year.

In the Southern Hemisphere, Chile has been in the business for 30 years, followed by Australia, New Zealand and South Africa with 25 years, Argentina and Uruguay with 15 years and Mexico with 10 years. Peru is the youngest player in the region , but we know how good and quick we can be before an opportunity.

In my experience, there are three key aspects to be successful in the industry: choice of production zone, the right breeds and the technical knowledge. All failures that have happened and unfortunately will continue happening are related to one of these three factors.

On the other hand, there are risks related to explosive growth of the national offering or of the appearance of a new competitor that may have better access or conditions than Peru. In my opinion, we are a few years short of such a situation.

In respect to developing a competitive, exportable product, the greatest risks are currently the development of operations that use low quality plants or illegal varieties.

Fruit from plants that have not been legally obtained can be considered contraband on consumer markets. Undesirable situations like this could damage the country's image and market access. Patents and intellectual property are part of the game.

The business will develop rapidly in our country and by then, the best market players will have to have reached high global standards. Breeding and knowledge will mark the difference.

In compensation for reaching high levels of competitiveness, however, the market window could expand and correspond to part of the Southern Hemisphere's season.

The eyes of the market are set on Peru.


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