Peru: Blueberries now a "nine-month business" for Camposol
What started as a one-hectare test trial in 2011 has become a dominant feature for Peruvian produce multinational Camposol, with blueberries now making up around 80% of new plantings. As part of a two-part feature story, Camposol Fresh CEO Jose Antonio Gomez gives a wrap on a business transformation driven by avocados and this antioxidant-rich berry, which is in line for a much greater presence in the group's balance sheets from now on.
For a company that originally aimed for just an October to November supply of blueberries, coinciding with Argentina before Chile normally enters the market, one gets the sense the group's exponential progress hasn't only been a surprise for markets but for Camposol too.
Or at least for the old Camposol - the preserve-focused, asparagus leader Camposol that existed before a rapid transformation saw 1,000 hectares of blueberries pop up.
Now Gomez is aiming for 1,000 more in the coming years.
"Actually Peru has no window," he says, not in the sense of a closed market but the opposite. Camposol can grow blueberries whenever it wants with the help of the Peruvian coast's natural "greenhouse" conditions.
"If Peru has one thing that differentiates from the rest of the world, it’s consistency of production – the weather is very stable, therefore you can predict the production mostly in advance and you just have a small variability versus what you have in Argentina or Chile.
"In the last seasons the quality has been so consistent that supermarkets are asking us to continue to supply product all the way into the Chilean season."
He says Camposol is actually supplying supermarkets in North America all the way through to March-April when the Florida season starts, and only leaving once significant volumes come on the market from Georgia.
"This business, from being just a narrow business of two or three months, has become a nine-month business all the way from August to April," he says, adding 80% of the blueberries were supplied directly to supermarkets.
"We have been going through different strategic decisions in the business. The company needed to focus resources on things that make sense for us, so we have been able to develop a fresh business in the last years that has become the predominant business.
"You have to remember this company started almost 20 years ago focused on the preserved business with the jars and the cans. That’s pretty much gone."
He describes the transformation from mostly preserved to mostly fresh, and in new commodities, as "incredible". In terms of blueberries, this change will likely be apparent in the group's fourth quarter results for 2015.
"What you're going to see is a heavy increase in the last quarter of 2015 versus the last quarter of 2014," he says.
"Right now we are supplying five chains in the U.S. and probably some eight chains in Europe with steady volumes that were pre-arranged at the beginning of the season. Those volumes with all supermarkets are going from early September to late March.
"More or less 60% of our volume comes through the U.S.; sometimes a little bit less like 55%. 35% goes to Europe, especially the U.K. market and then we have a balance that goes to Asia and Latin America.
"The product has had a tremendous success; it’s a story of success that in the beginning we didn’t know was going to work, from an agricultural point of view or on the market."
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