Juan Hirzel: "The blueberry industry continues to grow, in the face of a changing market"

"The global blueberry industry must structure product demand in terms of volumes, markets, product requirements, market niches for special products, such as organic production, and definition of product characteristics for each market"

The researcher at the Chilean Agricultural Research Institute (INIA), Juan Hirzel Campos, who has great international prestige achieved by his numerous research works, is characterized by having a very clear look at the crop and the industry in the global context. We talked with the specialist about some topics of interest that we share in this note.

The first thing was to know about his view of the global blueberry industry and the main challenges and projections that he distinguishes in the present and in the future, to which he replied:

  • The global blueberry industry must structure product demand in terms of volumes, markets, product type, and product quality attribute requirements for each market. Once these questions are resolved, we can approach a "better known market", and projections can be made with greater objectivity. At the moment the blueberry industry continues to grow based on statistics, projections and expectations, which can cause a market collapse in some periods.

    It is also interesting to know your opinion about some local realities, such as Peru and Chile ...

    The main growth is occurring in Peru, with a lot of momentum and state aid to support the growth of agriculture in general, but with some areas of agronomic management for blueberries that require further development and specialization. For Chile, growth is very low in area, with emphasis on the renewal of varieties.

Are you in favor of moving primarily with hydroponic systems in blueberry cultivation?

  • Hydroponic production systems have a high cost and therefore must be oriented towards higher-priced market niches, therefore, it is not possible to grow freely in this production system, except when there is a market projection. On the other hand, there is still a lack of knowledge regarding agronomic management for production in hydroponic systems, where the main limitations are the inadequate management of irrigation and fertilization, and in some cases of the conduction and management of plant canopy.

Advancing in the scenario of new quality and health standards, related to new genetics and high consumer requirements, we ask you:  

Do you need to go organic?

  • Organic production allows achieving a differentiation of product quality, which facilitates the preference of consumption in the market. However, there is no rule that ensures that the price of the product will always be higher than the conventional fruit, since the spreads fluctuate from week to week depending on the product offer. It should also be considered that organic production has fewer agronomic management tools that allow achieving yield potentials in all productive areas, and that in turn, the cost of inputs for organic use is also higher.

As we can see, Juan Hirzel has solid convictions on what to do to face the challenges of the industry and does not shy away from giving his opinion on different aspects related to cultivation, for this reason he is a recurring lecturer in the main international meetings of the agrofruticultural industry and permanent rapporteur of the International Blueberries Seminars.

His investigative work is reflected in several dozen publications and collaborations, and he is currently participating in 2 blueberry management projects in various areas of production, the results of which will be published next season, for which a more extensive interview with the international specialist we will publish it in the edition of Blue Magazine 2022.

Martín Carrillo O. - Blueberries Consulting

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