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Tuesday, December 5, 2023

How Peru turned the king of blueberries | Worldwide

Peru has damaged by on this planet of forest fruits. The South American nation has turn into the primary exporter of blueberries on the planet, surpassing nice powers such because the U.S., Canada and Chile. After being a minor competitor for the previous decade, it has topped itself the king of so-called “blue gold.”

The recipe for achievement has a number of elements: an ideal habitat (the coastal desert, with important plots of land for large-scale manufacturing), the event of refined irrigation programs (which have allowed for top productiveness), science-based agriculture (with tough analysis work in plant genetics) and a bunch of firms open to exploring new varieties to fulfill the market.

“During the last decade, the blueberry trade has turn into actually world,” says Cindy van Rijswick, a recent produce knowledgeable at Rabobank. “The worldwide market is rising with the assistance of Peru.”

In 2022, the Andean nation exported 287,806 tons of blueberries, price about $1.4 billion. This determine represents a historic report — the fourth in a row for a nationwide enterprise that, in 2012, didn’t promote any blueberries past its borders. One of many protagonists on this story is Carlos Gereda, the founder and government director of Inka’s Berries.

After an vital go to by Peruvian businessmen to Chile in 2002 — when blueberries already had a notable influence on worldwide markets — Gereda, a graduate of La Molina Agrarian College, realized that, in his nation, there was a normal lack of expertise concerning the product. From this, he drew two conclusions. To start with, the manufacturing of this fruit on Peruvian soil had nice potential through the low season within the northern hemisphere — the area the place the fruit is consumed within the best amount. The USA — which, on the time, was the primary provider of blueberries on this planet — provided blueberries to the market between Could and August. Afterwards, the season was partially over and customers needed to await Chile (which, till not too long ago, was the chief in Latin America) to take over in December. In different phrases, between September and November, there weren’t sufficient blueberries available on the market to satisfy rising demand. Argentina and Uruguay — additionally members within the enterprise — may barely cowl the hole that opened up throughout that interval.

This meant that there was a window of alternative for Peru.

 Blueberries of the Matías variety, exported by Inka's Berries.
Blueberries of the Matías selection, exported by Inka’s Berries.

The second conclusion Gereda got here to was that, in an effort to reap the benefits of the seasonal hole, it was essential to have a plant that could possibly be grown rapidly and bought at an affordable value. He acquired all the way down to work, looking for a spread appropriate for the circumstances alongside the Peruvian coast. This wasn’t simple: blueberries require a chilly interval (often called a winter chill) to develop. A minimum of 400 to 800 chilly hours are wanted at temperatures under a sure threshold, which is normally round seven levels Celsius. That is one thing that can not be achieved on the temperate Peruvian coast.

After a few years — and after testing 14 totally different varieties — Gereda hit the nail on the pinnacle with 4 of them. This led to the creation of protocols for in vitro propagation. The subsequent problem was to search out agricultural firms keen to leap on the blueberry bandwagon in a land the place grapes, asparagus and avocados have historically dominated the export market.

A key selection

That is how, in 2009, Gereda based Inka’s Berries. That very same 12 months, Camposol — one of many largest agro producers within the nation — determined to check out one of many varieties already examined by Gereda. Each firms discovered that the Biloxi selection was higher tailored to native circumstances. It was then that Camposol centered decisively on the event of this fruit. The corporate transformed its asparagus fields — whose yields had been declining — into blueberry plantations. In 2011, they planted their first 50 hectares, and by 2016, they already had 1,600 hectares. At the moment, Camposol — the biggest exporter of blueberries within the nation — has 3,000 hectares devoted to the fruit.

“One thing transformative and magical emerged in Peru,” says José Antonio Gómez, the CEO of the corporate. In 2022, his agency exported some 50,820 tons of blueberries. Final 12 months, Camposol made virtually $500 million, of which 65% is due to blueberries.

At the moment, Peruvian farmers produce the fruit all year long, though the height of manufacturing happens between September and October. There are greater than 20,000 hectares dedicated to blueberries, that are bought in 30 nations. The nation ranks third as a producer, after the US and China. Along with Camposol, varied firms additionally take part within the enterprise, akin to Agrovisión Perú, Hortifrut, Agrícola Cerro Prieto, or Exportadora Frutícola del Sur, amongst others. “We estimate that 135,000 direct jobs had been generated within the final season,” says Luis Miguel Vegas, supervisor of ProArándanos.

As for the varieties, greater than 65 totally different ones have been licensed. Gereda — in collaboration with the College of Georgia — is creating new ones. “The blueberry is the final nice agro-export product within the nation, however it was preceded by asparagus, grapes and avocados,” explains Piero Ghezzi, founding associate of HacerPerú and a former Peruvian minister of manufacturing.

Ghezzi factors out that the latest success is because of a confluence of things. Firstly, due to the general public coverage choices that the nation has taken in latest many years. Amongst them, the event of irrigation initiatives alongside the Peruvian coast, the strengthening of Senasa — the well being inspection entity answerable for opening new export markets — in addition to the Agrarian Promotion Regulation. Handed in 2000, the laws established a particular tax and labor protocol, in addition to free commerce agreements signed with totally different markets, together with the USA, China and the EU, which have allowed for duty-free exports.

The increase, nevertheless, isn’t with out its dangers. “The principle one is farmers increasing manufacturing too quick,” Van Rijswick cautions. This might put strain on margins and costs, which have already been on the decline in recent times. After which, there are different elements: competitors from different nations, geopolitical tensions (such because the battle in Ukraine, which has elevated the prices of inputs), logistical difficulties, inside political unrest and the consequences of local weather change.

This final issue is already making a dent. A warmer local weather impacts some sorts of blueberries, making it tough to know what the manufacturing ranges of the 2023-2024 rising season shall be. The supervisor of ProArándanos is ready for all eventualities: “There are three attainable eventualities: the primary is that exports will develop, the second is that we are going to preserve final 12 months’s numbers and the third is that we might see a drop in quantity.” Nonetheless, he notes, even when the latter happens, “we might nonetheless preserve our place because the world’s main exporter.”

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