José Antonio Gómez-Bazán, CEO of Camposol: what is the secret of the success of the Peruvian blueberry?

The success of blueberries in Peru is a study phenomenon. Once an imported fruit limited to high-end supermarkets, today it is found in multiple markets in Lima and other cities. In fact, the reach of these berries in the Andean country has been so great that today, Peru has also managed to position itself as the main exporter of blueberries in the world.

It is a notable milestone for a route that began in 2008, when the first plantation was recorded in the southern department of Arequipa. At that time, the 10 hectares that were planted soon collapsed due to the hostility of the climate, according to the Ministry of Agrarian Development and Irrigation of Peru. But this served as an experience for businessmen interested in blueberries to strive to find conditions that adapt to the fruit.

In a country with hundreds of microclimates like Peru, it did not seem to be a difficult task, but many times, the opposite had to be done: introduce genetic varieties of blueberries that adapt to different climates. By applying both strategies, a good part of the production's success was generated, according to José Antonio Gómez-Bazán, CEO of Camposol, one of the main agro-exporters in Peru. 

“In Trujillo, in the department of La Libertad (northwest of Peru), blueberry production is significantly concentrated and we have other products that are not tropical. Because the climate of the Peruvian coast is unique,” ​​says Gómez-Bazán for AmericaEconomy.

According to the ProArándanos association, La Libertad is the main blueberry producing region in Peru, having 46% of its surface planted with this fruit. It is followed by neighboring Lambayeque (29%), Ica (6,8%), Áncash (6,4%), Piura (5,3%) and Moquegua (0,4%). All these regions have in common that they are departments on the Peruvian coast.

The union of the Andes mountain range, which prevents the transfer of rain from the Peruvian Amazon to the coast, and the Humboldt current, which cools the Peruvian sea, generates a desert climate, although humid in winter. This special climate turns the northern regions of Peru into a large greenhouse, as the average temperature ranges between 20 and 26 degrees.

“Consequently, almost all agriculture is done with drip irrigation systems. In other words, it is almost a hydroponic agriculture where you control many of the factors of the plant, and these characteristics make the blueberry find a very suitable environment for its development,” complements the Camposol manager. Furthermore, the relative stability of the climate, interrupted from time to time by the El Niño Phenomena, allows blueberry production to be maintained for 52 weeks of the year.

The results speak for themselves: if in 2010, blueberry exports generated US$32 million in income, by 2023, the large figure of US$1.679 million will be achieved, according to data from the Peruvian Exporters Association (Adex). ).

In this way, blueberries contribute a good percentage to the emerging agro-export sector of the South American country. The impact of the recapitalization of agriculture and free trade agreements has been evident: if in 2000, Peru received US$645 million from agricultural exports; By 2018, it had raised US$6.665 million, according to the National Superintendency of Tax Administration (Sunat).

FROM BILOXI TO “LA CHOLA”

However, as already mentioned, the search for pleasant climates was not the only plan of Camposol and other blueberry producers. From 2009 onwards, the company promoted the introduction of blueberry varieties that adapt to the desert climate of the Chavimochic region, in the department of La Libertad. The chosen one was Biloxi, a type of berry that, in addition to being resistant, had a crunchy consistency.

To expand Biloxi's presence in northern Peru, it signed an agreement with the company Inka's Berries, a pioneer in the production of blueberries in Peru, as well as with the Agrarian University of La Molina, a state educational institution that used its laboratory to reproduce the floors. "Later, other varieties created in nurseries such as Ventura came, but Biloxi was the pioneer and continues to be a very important component in our products to this day," Gómez-Bazán clarifies.

However, Biloxi has been only the first step for the company's most ambitious project: “La Chola”, a variety native to the Peruvian coast. The Camposol team began a process of crossing with other free varieties of blueberries, trying to find the best possible conditions for the climate and preferences of the Peruvian customer.

“We were looking for a plant that is a little more productive, that had a larger berry size and that its flavor is more inclined to sweet than acid,” says the manager. The crunchy consistency was also not left out, which is usually seen as a sign that the fruit is fresh and of good quality.

But the decision was also made for more practical reasons: a variety had to be sought that was more resistant to long boat trips between Peru and distant destinations such as China. Gómez-Bazán assures that every year Camposol will try to develop a new variety that surpasses the previous one.

Along the way, it is expected to position the blueberry as the main snack native of Peru. As in the US, Camposol's ultimate goal is for the fruits to be purchased at gas stations, movie theaters, sporting events, among others. "The blueberries They are foods with organoleptic properties and above all, the antioxidants they have are effective in fighting cancer,” says Gómez-Bazán.

Furthermore, in general terms, the manager asserts that blueberries meet three characteristics that many consumers perceive in ideal foods: they are healthy, fresh and convenient. At an international level, this vision has allowed them to promote marketing campaigns in the US aimed at the educational sector.

The objective is to promote healthy eating in primary schools through the consumption of blueberries. It is an important bet, because the North American power occupies 55% of the Peruvian blueberry market. An achievement that just two decades ago would have been unthinkable.

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