Blueberries!

Blueberry producers in Peru cheer strong growth and eye Colombia.

Peru has become one of the leading global blueberry exporters with almost 14,000 hectares of cultivated land, a spectacular increase from the 2,316 hectares in 2016. Between September 2019 and February 2020 Peru exported 120,000 tonnes or USD 764 million worth of the small blue fruits.

Despite the global financial crisis caused by the pandemic, the demand for Peruvian blueberries continued to rise in 2020 and exports are forecast to increase by 30% to 170,000 tonnes which, despite the fall in prices, could result in a total amount of more than USD 1 billion.

The Managing Director of a large Peruvian producer was very optimistic about the growth of the market, his only concern was political, “You need to consider the political context. With the candidate Pedro Castillo, nothing in Peru will grow.”

“You need to consider the political context. With the candidate Pedro Castillo, nothing in Peru will grow.”

Managing Direct, Peruvian blueberry producer

Although starting from a much lower level, Colombia also experienced a significant boom in 2020, with exports increasing from USD 381,000 in the prior year to USD 1.1 million. This trend has led local producers to incorporate the Colombian Association of Blueberries (Ascolblue). The initiative is a stepping stone towards the improvement of commercialisation rates of the produce, after producers often struggled with intermediaries.

The main challenges that Colombian blueberry producers currently face are cultivating costs which require between USD 80 and USD 100 per hectare. However, blueberry production in Colombia has its own advantages as blueberry plants in the country have higher productivity levels than Chile and Peru where changing seasons limit year-round production.

A General Manager at a Peruvian-Chilean Agroexporter explained, “Peru covers the production window from July to December while Chile’s window is December, January, February and March. Peru has the peculiarity that its production is not seasonal but it is regulated, when their window is saturated they will expand to compete with Chile. This is a problem for Chile because Peru has more competitive production. The challenge with Colombia is that it rains, so you need to grow crops with roofs and tunnels, making it more expensive.”

The CEO of a fruit investment fund in Peru disagreed and was certain that Colombia will be the fastest growing market for blueberries, “The Colombian market is still very incipient, but many Peruvian and Chilean companies are heading there with a medium term view.”

“The Colombian market is still very incipient, but many Peruvian and Chilean companies are heading there with a medium term view.”

CEO, fruit investment firm, Peru

The US is the leading blueberry consumer in the world, with 950g. of blueberry per capita consumption, a tenfold increase from the 90g. registered in the early 2000s. Netherlands, China, UK, Hong Kong and Canada are also among the world’s top clients. The investment fund CEO confirmed, “There are three main markets: the US is the strongest with 60% of export, 30% Europe and 10% or sometimes 20% China.”

The supply chain of Latin American fruit exporters, which include blueberries, is one of the most sophisticated in the world as the region is the larger exporter of fruit at a transcontinental level. Penny Bamber, a research associate at the Duke University Global Value Centre said that fruit exporters in the region are used to complex food supply chain issues which include climate adversities, logistical bottlenecks, diseases and natural disasters. As such, they have fully integrated vertical supply chains for fruit exports which offer a wide range of solutions to the current challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic.

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