The ‘berry’ best

Blueberries become Peru's leading agricultural export, surpassing coffee and grapes.

Blueberry production in Peru is reaching new heights two decades after the implementation of the 2001 Agrarian Law which promoted agriculture, effectively formalising the sector, and providing financial incentives to the agricultural industry. The political reform, combined with technological developments, and the introduction of genetic programmes which allow producers to grow the product throughout the year, including counter-seasons and times of natural shortages, has been key to the industry development.

In 2021, the export of blueberry accounted for 13.4% of Peru’s agricultural exports. The country exported 223 million kilogrammes of blueberries worldwide, reaching USD 1.31 billion in exports from September 2021 to October 2022. Notably, Peru has experienced a 16-fold growth in blueberry exports over the past decade, shipping its produce to 31 countries worldwide including the US, which accounts for 51% of exports.

The growth in blueberry production could expand further, according to the general manager of a Peruvian agricultural exporter, “Peru’s blueberry production window is currently July to December. This is by design, not because of the climate, you can prune in such a way that you will know exactly when they will produce. Peru chose the July to December window because that is the most undersupplied season, but production could expand to other months. Once Peru exhausts this season it could expand production into other months, for example, Chile produces in January, February and March. So, there is still room for growth on the supply side.”

“Peru chose the July to December window because that is the most undersupplied season, but production could expand to other months.”

General manager, agricultural exporter, Peru

However, this unprecedented growth comes with challenges, as Peru is experiencing an availability of labour problem due to growing competition between crops and unwillingness of workers to work on farms being in secluded areas. In addition, producers also face sustainability challenges as water scarcity and intensive pesticide use start to cause environmental problems. Thus, some producers have opted for organic production, reducing the use of chemicals, fertilisers, and using drones to control the use of land but these practices are not commonplace, yet.

“If volumes are to grow, Peru’s logistics infrastructure will need investment.”

General manager, agricultural exporter, Peru

Logistics infrastructure is another area for improvement explained the general manager, “If volumes are to grow, Peru’s logistics infrastructure will need investment. Chile currently has an advantage here, especially for the Cherry express, which are the charter boats that are filled with fruits that go directly to China from December to January. The fruit arrives at their destination in 20 days versus the regular transit of 30 days and all the fruit producers get on the boats. Peru doesn’t have anything like that. However, if Peru is going to start producing in the Chilean window, Chile will lose productivity and there are already many Chilean companies entering Peru, e.g. Hortifrut.

Peru’s blueberry industry is thriving and creating a range of opportunities for domestic and international investors. Despite the country’s political instability, investment continues to flow into small and large producers alike.

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