Blueberries in Mexico: the challenges of a growing industry

Blueberries Consulting will delve into the state of the Mexican industry at the Blueberries Mexico 2023 International Seminar on May 31 and June 1.

It was during the year 2005 that nurserymen, producers, geneticists and marketing specialists from Chile and the United States began to develop cultivars for the warm climate of Jalisco and Michoacán. After testing different practices on pruning, varietal selection, soil management and the inclusion of protected agriculture, they arrived at the formula that gave the impetus and began the growth of the current Mexican blueberry industry.

They currently have fruit available for export during 10 months of the year, from September to June. The central zone of Mexico, with lower-yield varieties, begins to harvest in September, competing until December with the arrival of large volumes from Peru in the United States.

Then the production is transferred to the state of Jalisco, where about 50% of the annual blueberries are produced given the high yield of its crops. In February, the rise in exported volumes begins, reaching its peak during March and April.

Mexico has presented a constant growth rate in the last five years. With a slightly volatile climate, 75% of the plantations under a tunnel system or controlled environment and a privileged location with respect to its main market, the United States, the industry strengthened its participation in the world blueberry market during the pandemic.

Although the country was not exempt from the rise in production costs and logistical problems, the consequences of the shortage of truckers have no comparison with the high value of the lack of coordination in maritime shipments that many of its competitors faced.

This situation allowed Mexico to double its historical exports in 2021 and 2022.

Genetics

The success of the industry, the shortage of labor and the lack of efficiency of its main variety add pressure to the producer to move towards new cultivars. The most popular variety in Mexico is Biloxi, which, although it achieves great yields, is inefficient to harvest and does not meet some of the new premium characteristics, such as size or crunchy.

Many industry-renowned genetic development programs are present in Mexico, so their new plantings are mostly new varietal generations from Australia, Spain, the US, and Mexico, among others.

The growth will continue, but the National Association of Berry Exporters of Mexico (Aneberries) expects its rate to decrease to 20% per year, since replanting new varieties will disrupt the volumes produced for a while.

Monomarket

You will be able to slow down the rate of volume growth, but not the rate of increase. Mexico will continue to grow, so one of Aneberries' concerns is to create new markets in places like Asia, Europe and the Middle West to complement the focus on the US and Canada.

97% of the blueberries exported by Mexico arrived in the United States during 2021/2022, so one can practically speak of a monomarket. In this sense, despite the great competitive advantages it has, Mexico remains vulnerable to any decision or situation in the United States that may affect the consumption of its blueberries in the North American country.

The pandemic and its consequences dampened the spirit of expanding into new markets, keeping the focus on the United States at a time when reaching new markets meant a higher-than-expected rise in costs.

Sustainability

In a statement, Aneberries highlights its commitment to the development of more sustainable practices and greater social responsibility. "The work includes implementing technologies that seek to optimize and reduce the use of natural resources, and campaigns that prioritize the farm worker," the document states.

The union's concern for the labor force is exacerbated after the prohibition imposed by the Mexican government on subcontracting labor in berries and avocados, as part of the requirements of the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA).

Finally, the best prices and the proximity to one of the markets with the highest organic consumption increased the participation of this type of crop in the industry. Fresh organic blueberry production doubled in size during 2021/2022 as a result of field conversion and new plants coming to maturity.

To obtain in-depth knowledge about the commercial and technical state of the blueberry industry in Mexico, we invite you to attend the XXVI International Seminar Blueberries Mexico 2023, which will take place at the Hard Rock Hotel Guadalajara on May 31 and June 01.

Source
By Catalina Pérez Ruiz - Blueberries Consulting.

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