Chile has positioned itself as the world’s leading blueberry exporter, while it ranks second in frozen raspberry shipments, but a recent report has identified the great quality and export potential of the country’s strawberries.
The Chilean Office of Agricultural Studies and Policy (ODEPA) report, titled “Processed strawberries and blackberries: the emergence of the other berries” and written by Catalina Catalina González Zagal, highlights the current state of these two fruits in detail and what prospects they hold for the South American country.
The report says that of the 54,821 metric tons (MT) of strawberries produced in Chile during the 2012 season, 36,182MT were consumed in the domestic market, mostly fresh. The remaining production went to processing for export in various forms such as frozen fruit, jams, juices and dried fruit.
The nation boasts 22 processing plants for frozen strawberries, manufacturing a product that has grown 39.8% in the last decade, along with a 146.6% spike in value, now worth US$31.9 million annually.
International Trade Centre statistics show that Chile is the ninth biggest exporter of frozen strawberries in the world; China is currently the leader, followed by Poland, Mexico and Morocco.
In 2012, Chile sent 28% of its frozen strawberry exports to China. The Asian giant only sent 15% of its production to processing last year, with Chile becoming its main foreign provider, making up 57% of the import total.
The report slates expectations for continued demand growth in the market, due to the increasing popularity of frozen strawberries as gifts during Chinese New Year as its red color symbolizes happiness and prosperity.
These festivities coincide with the Chilean harvest season, and thanks to the free trade agreement (FTA) signed by both countries in 2005, frozen Chilean strawberries can enter China with a tariff of 6%, which is considerably lower compared to other countries that must enter with a 30% tariff.
Japan has the second largest share of Chilean strawberry exports at 19%, followed by Canada (18%) and the U.S. (16%).
The report highlights a greater incorporation of plastic tunnels as one of the Chilean industry’s challenges, which reduces the risk of considerable losses from climatic instability; other tasks ahead include encouraging the crop’s cultivation, and promoting consumption both locally and overseas.
Natural Resource Information Center of Chile (Cirén) figures show the total area dedicated to wild and cultivated blackberries in Chile stands at 1,798ha.
While fresh exports have declined drastically from 132MT to nothing between 2003 and 2012, driven by strong Mexican competition in the U.S., exports of the frozen product have grown dramatically in the last 10 years reaching 16,386MT with sales of US$42.4 million last season.
The report mentions that both volumes and values grew between 2003 and 2008, but the U.S. recession led to a considerable decline in 2009. After a couple of years of tough returns, prices rose significantly in 2011 and again in 2012.
Frozen blackberry exports reached 13,156MT in the first six months of 2013 with a value of US$37.7 million. Out of this total, 993MT were organic with a sales value of US$3.7 million.
The top buyers of Chilean frozen blackberries are the U.S., the Netherlands, France and Canada, while the biggest organic importers were the U.S., Belgium and Canada.
The development of thornless varieties was emphasized as important for Chile as it leads to an easier harvest, and this convenience can be combined with the blackberry’s nutritional value that makes it a superfruit.