Rising Peruvian blueberry supply not a problem for Chile, says Hortifrut exec - FreshFruitPortal.com

Rising Peruvian blueberry supply not a problem for Chile, says Hortifrut exec

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Rising Peruvian blueberry supply not a problem for Chile, says Hortifrut exec

An executive from Chile-based berry multinational Hortifrut says soaring blueberry volumes from Peru should not pose major issues for growers south of the border. blueberries_15850849

Corporate commercial officer Felipe Juillerat told www.freshfruitportal.com Peruvian exports looked set to double year-on-year this season to around 25,000 metric tons (MT).

Hundreds of new hectares of blueberry plantations have cropped up over the last year or so, according to Sierra y Selva Exportadora, and recent access to the Chinese market could drive plantings even further.

But Juillerat said while there may be a minor impact on Chilean exporters in the initial part of the season, there was no cause for alarm.

"The main difference for the South American blueberry season from last year is that Peru has considerably increased its export volumes - we calculate that it’s around double," he said.

"I think that it could affect the early part of the campaign for Chilean exporters, but not the middle or late part. In the early part there is an undersupply of fruit in the markets, and afterwards in the window of January, February and March Chile is well consolidated.

"During that time Chile has a very good production, a quality product that's recognized around the world, the majority of shipments are via seafreight, which is very efficient in terms of costs. For productive reasons, Peru can't continue to export in those months."

He added that larger volumes from Peru over the period from August to December, where supply has typically been inferior to demand, would help build consumption levels, benefitting exporters around the world.

"Obviously if it continues to increase at such a fast rate it could have an impact on selling prices, but at the same time it’s going to have an impact on consumption," he said.

Chile's exports are also expected to increase in the future, but Juillerat said this would mainly be down to varietal conversion rather than new hectarage.

He added the new and improved genetics would help to consolidate Chile's position as a leading blueberry exporter and help to boost growers' businesses.

As for the current season, the representative said everything had been developing well for the campaign. The deal is around weeks earlier than last year due to a mild winter, but in general there were sufficient chilling hours.

"If we look at industry shipments to date, I think it might be around 30-50% higher, but we at Hortifrut are about 200% higher due to the early start and because new plantations that we have are starting to come into production," he said.

"That percentage will of course decrease as the season progresses, but it’s been a very good start to the season because in this stage you have a market that wants to start receiving fruit from the new South American season."

He said prices in the U.S. market were not particularly attractive at present, in part due to heavy Argentine volumes, but he explained Hortifrut had diversified its markets and had a focus on alternative destinations in the early stages.

"We have diversified our markets to places where there is lower supply during this time, like the Asian market, some niches in the European market, Russia, the Middle East," he said.

Hortifrut has so far shipped around three-quarters of exports to Asian markets, according to Juillerat, but for the whole season the proportion is typically around 12-15%.

The company is expecting to export in the region of 17,000-18,000MT from Chile this year, marking a small year-on-year increase, and is projecting a 5% annual increase for the coming years thanks largely to new varieties.

Juillerat also said Hortifrut's volumes from Argentina were remaining more or less stable, while strong growth was expected from its business in Peru, where lots of new hectares have been planted.

Photo: www.shutterstock.com


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