When it comes to the blueberry industry, Colombia is one of the countries working to gain ground. Camilo Lozano, legal representative of Colombian blueberry association Asocolblue says "It is a sector that has been revitalizing" in the country.
The nation currently has 450 hectares of the fruit planted. What's more, it hopes to expand with an additional 1,500 hectares in the next two years.
The expansion isn't only limited to land, however. As of now, the association represents 50% of the nation's producers. Yet he says he keeps receiving "more requests from growers and people interested in belonging to the association".
Considering these factors, he notes: "The blueberry issue has been developing quite well in the country."
He adds that "to that end, we have worked on technical issues, marketing, business model and logistics".
Blueberry production overview
The current production model has a large base of small farmers who typically own one, two or three hectares, says Lozano.
National farmers grow an average of 5,000 to 5,500 plants per hectare, with plants producing an average of four or five kilos of blueberries each. Still, there are some who report eight kilos per plant per year, which presents interesting opportunities for the sector's future.
Referring to the farming conditions in the country, Lozano indicates that regions are affected by both their latitude and altitude.
"In Colombia, there are areas from 2,200 meters to 3,000 meters in the Colombian highlands," he explains.
When it comes to weather conditions, he says: "There are conditions very similar to those present [in Chile] in spring and summer. He calls these "optimal" for blueberry production.
Lozano says Colombia's good quality of the water and effective infrastructure left by the country's flower industry are additional advantages for this crop.
So far, Colombian growers have planted the Biloxi variety, Lozano says. This category has brix levels between 14 and 15 degrees and average sizes of 13 to 14 millimeters.
"We have found a fruit of good quality in sweetness, size and durability, with respect to others," he states.
Colombia's future opportunities
Although the country has the capacity to produce blueberries all year round, he points out that farmers could schedule crops to take advantage of commercial windows.
These periods would fall between February and April and then again from October to November.
During these peak months, those in Colombia's blueberry industry could find better prices. That's because they would not be competing with supplies from Chile or North America, Lozano explains.
Currently, the blueberries local growers produce are for domestic consumption.
"As it has been such a novel crop, domestic prices are still stimulating," he explains.
While exports have also already been sent to the U.S. and Europe, he comments that these shipments were in non-relevant volumes. Furthermore, they were made by private parties.
"We hope that very soon - in a matter of months - we may be already exporting more significant volumes."
In this line, the association is working to set up a commercialization company. With this development, Lozano says it aims to "collect all the volume of our partners and be a bit more competitive in prices".
He believes achieving this would allow the corporation to guarantee the traceability of its produce and better satisfy consumers.