Growing trend of producing frozen blueberries before labor reform

Chile is the second largest producer of blueberries and the leading exporter among all countries in the world. This season is expected shipments by 100 thousand tons of fresh fruit and 40 thousand frozen, according to the president of the Association of Fruit Exporters of Chile (Asoex), Ronald Bown.

But in the market they see that the effect of the labor reform could increase the volume of this fruit in its frozen format. Patricio Tellechea, general manager of the fruits company Fruitol Fruit, estimates that as a result of this initiative, the production of this frozen berries could rise between 10% and 15%. The executive said that the harvest of this fruit requires a lot of labor if it is fresh shipments, because this modality requires special care that does not alter the appearance of the fruit. Although it affirmed that the market for fresh products is still more attractive than those frozen due to the higher returns generated by the first category, producers and exporters would consider increasing the proportion of frozen berries, he said.

The president of Empresas Sutil, Juan Sutil, said that in the face of an eventual situation that complicates harvests, the natural step is to mechanize them. The entrepreneur explained that the greater availability of machines that allow higher performance could drive a trend towards greater use of machinery instead of labor in the berries industry.

Ronald Bown warned that one of the factors that press the traffic from fresh blueberries to frozen, is, among others, “the lack of labor to harvest. Mechanical harvesting requires freezing”.

Sutil added that frozen fruit has been improving in terms of prices, especially in the organic category. "Chile has a unique advantage in the world of producing fruit against the season, and all the conditions exist for the frozen category to continue growing at double-digit rates, and the only way to solve this growth is with mechanization", Anadio.

In addition to accelerating mechanization in production, the labor reform would bring other effects. Juan Carlos Domínguez, corporate commercial manager of the exporter SB Group, said that although blueberries are a profitable business, producers do not want to increase investments in plantations, labor shortages and changes in the labor law.

- Climate impact lLuvias near December could affect the harvest of fresh blueberries.

- 100 thousand tons of fresh blueberries it is estimated that Chile exports in the fruit season 2015-2016. In addition, another 40 thousand tons of this frozen species would be sent abroad, according to projections by the Exporters Association.

- 15% shipments could grow  of blueberries frozen by the eventual mechanization due to the labor reform.



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