Alfonso Velásquez, former president of Sierra y Selva Exportadora: "Thanks to what I learned in Chile, I was able to introduce blueberries to Peru, nobody spoke about it here ..."

“In December of that 2011 we decided to develop the first international blueberry seminar, relying on contacts with Chilean and American businessmen. The event was a success and that is where the blueberry story in Peru begins ”

Alfonso Velásquez, for many, is the true architect of the income, cultivation and development of the blueberry industry in Peru. He tells us that in 2009 he was invited to visit Chilean orchards by the Prochile institution, which allowed him to soak up the Chilean experience in cultivation and take it to Peru to promote the new cultivation. 

"The promotion of berries is an act that I value very generously from Prochile and I have always appreciated it," says Velásquez, explaining that he was invited based on his experience as a promoter and because he had shown interest in blueberry because he had read it . 

"I didn't know it or had eaten it, but I had seen that bilberry was a provisional and interesting product in Chile and that they had gone through years of mistakes and actions, but that it was an industry that was doing very well," he says.

One week in the field

He recalls that his trip lasted for a week in Chile, which allowed him to meet with businessmen and producers, with public and private organizations, and with various related actors. "I also remember that the first day I had the opportunity to visit the Hortifrut nursery, an interesting visit (...) I had been Minister of Production in Peru, so I could see the social potential of these crops."

“One night they woke me up to see how huge equipment was turned on, some kind of heaters to prevent the frost from destroying the blueberry plantations. We saw the crops, we also saw the blackberry, so I came to Peru with the motivation of the berry theme ”, he recalls

He tells us that his first interest was raspberry, and he took vitro seedlings to start a process with the Peruvian INIA. While waiting for the raspberry to advance, Ollanta Humala is elected as President in Peru, who requests that he assume the presidency of Sierra Exportadora. Remember that he took on with great enthusiasm in September 2011 for Sierra Exportadora to become the government office to develop productive inclusion. 

“My thought was that, for there to be a productive inclusion, we were not going to talk to the producer about the potato or the beans only, we had to create something new for the Andean farmer, for the small farmer, and that is why, in Based on what has been seen and learned in Chile, I said, the future has to be blueberry in Peru ”. 

“If you see the productive history of Peru in 2011, nobody spoke of blueberries. Some tests had been done, and on a plot tucked in the middle of the puna, in Pichupampa, we launched with the mayor of the region, with the governor and with a producer association. That's where the Peru Berries program begins, "he says.

In the launch speech of the Peru Berries program, Alfonso Velásquez said:

"Although it is true, Chile is the main counter-season blueberry producer in the southern hemisphere, it can be repeated what happened with asparagus, artichoke, products in which Peru has displaced our southern neighbor in participation of the market, both for quality, volume and seasonality ”.

Velásquez explains that Perú Berries was born with a strong message in its slogan "New products, new markets", and henceforth Sierra Exportadora is dedicated almost exclusively to promoting the crop.

“In December of that 2011 we decided to develop the first international blueberry seminar, with Chilean and American exhibitors, relying on contacts with Chilean and American businessmen. The event was a success and that is where the blueberry story in Peru begins, ”he says.

Sowing and bullying

“Little by little the nurseries delivered all their production. We counted the number of hectares that were planted, 6 to 7 hectares per day, because there was no material, so they had orders and the nurseries did a magnificent job, Chilean companies that have been part of this development as well, "he highlights.

Velásquez confesses that not everything was easy and remembers that the ministers of the time bullied him, because they assured that it was impossible for the industrial cultivation of blueberries in those lands to bear fruit.

Prospects and diversification

"We continue with the window, the businessman continues to invest and test new varieties, which allows us to see that by 2021 we should be bordering 20 hectares, but not everything can be fresh, the issue of frozen has to grow, the issue of sweets, juices, nectars. All this process has to take place and we hope that this diversification will also force us to further industrialize the product, ”he concludes.

Source
Martín Carrillo O. - Blueberries Consulting

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