Chile: Blueberry growers adapt to lack of water and labor
Lack of labor and difficulty in obtaining the necessary inputs to obtain better yields would complicate the profitability of blueberries during the next season, where obtaining seasonal workers in time to harvest and export this fruit will be crucial to achieve optimal results from producers.
Carlos Inostroza, president of Araucanía Frutícola, a program financed by the Regional Government and executed by INIA that provides professional and specialized support to new fruit growers in the region, assured that “blueberry production will remain stable, with between 3 and 3,5 , XNUMX% growth of blueberry plantations ”.
In his opinion, "it is important to note that most, if not all, farmers are taking measures to address water shortages and lack of labor, the main problems for the current harvest."
Inostroza said that to face these conditions, farmers have chosen to "switch to more resistant varieties of blueberries, which can withstand the lack of water, as well as the mechanized harvest that will begin to be used to face the lack of workers agricultural ”.
The Araucanía Frutícola spokesperson explained that “climate change and the problem of labor are processes that have already been installed and that companies should consider when starting up, even some municipalities and producer associations are working to to be able to harvest the necessary hectares of blueberries ”.
Carlos Inostroza said that "this is also important to comply with the production quotas committed for export by the country and not lose the credibility of the item."
RISKS FOR THE 2021-2022 SEASON
One of the risks of this season's harvest season is, precisely, “not complying with the quota of workers necessary to harvest our production, due to political uncertainty, as well as the conflicts that are experienced in our territory, which many times it drives away workers from the area, ”said the farmer.
The global problem with the increase in the price and shortage of agricultural inputs also complicates the producers of this fruit, “because the items that we got from one day to the next, today take weeks, which is why we have partnered, from a way of working together to, for example, place large orders to have the necessary stock, a situation that would continue for at least a couple of more seasons ”.
The co-owner of Agrícola Hühne and blueberry producer, Ernesto Hühne, said “we have followed all the indications to have a healthy crop, for which we are respecting all the procedures indicated by the specialists, although so far the biggest problem may be the hand of work, which for the moment is available, although a little more expensive than the previous year, which has also allowed us to have a good progress and performance ”.
The representative of Agrícola Hühne commented that, with this methodology, they have managed to “have only a 10% discard of these fruits, which is quite good. The critical point of production normally occurs in January, with higher temperatures and softer fruits, which means lower percentages that can be packed and exported, also it has not rained, which is good at this time, because the rain is an interference negative at this point in production ”.
Regarding the international demand for this fruit, Ernesto Hühne said that “there are buyers who know that Chile exports during December, January and part of February, which allows us to dominate this market at least during these months, where we are committed to the different varieties and quantities of fruit that we will take out of the country beforehand ”. Regarding the current competitiveness of the blueberry with other seasonal varieties, the producer said "this fruit tree is more stable than other varieties, such as cherries, where rain breaks them and rules out the possibility of exporting them, generating considerable losses for producers."
The blueberry, on the other hand, "is a safer plantation, while, with cherries, if it rains during the second half of December and you have cherries, it is very serious for the quality of the fruit, which finally ends up defining its potential of exportation or its disposal and sale at the national level, which lowers the yields and makes the investment put into its maintenance cannot be recovered ”.
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