Mario Salazar: "The variety matters, to avoid the 'commoditization' of the Peruvian blueberry"

"Looking for varieties that leave Biloxi behind and focus on characteristics that fit the tastes of the Chinese consumer, can be an escape valve for all the volume that is coming"

Mario Salazar, Director General of the School of Shared Knowledge (ECC), a Peruvian multidisciplinary body, which addresses various issues incumbent on the development of the country in a collective and holistic way, makes an analysis of the current situation of the Peruvian blueberry industry and its different perspectives and challenges to overcome in its development path.

"I had the opportunity to speak with several producers and exporters of Peruvian blueberries (...) and on the other hand, an iQonsulting publication about the international blueberry market surprised me pleasantly given the level of information it handled," he explains, revealing some of his sources on which he bases his reflection. 

In his story, he begins by highlighting the enormous dynamism of Peruvian blueberry exports, going from being an almost unknown product less than a decade ago, to becoming "one of the main products in our agro-export basket," he says. 

According to IQonsulting, in the last season Peru achieved a growth of 68%, because it increased its shipments from 73.977 tons exported in the 2018/2019 campaign, to 124.831 tons shipped in the 2019/2020 season (according to AGAP figures)

An eye on Mexico

Salazar, in his opinion in highlights that the supply of blueberries by Mexico is present practically all year, although its peak in shipments occurs in April, so he calls to observe the volumes of this country, which went from 36.697 tons in the 2018/2019 campaign, to 42.500 in the 2019/2020 campaign, which implies a growth of almost 31%, according to their figures. 

“For two reasons it is important not to lose sight of Mexico. The first is that it is close to our main market and the second is that it occupies a large part of our production window; Mexico always represents a threat to Peruvian producers, "he warns.

"Approximately 56% of our blueberry exports go to the United States, and Mexico, due to the lower cost of its logistics to the northern country, has an advantage over us. This has already happened to us with the Peruvian asparagus; there are references that some blueberry producing companies in Peru are already exploring operations in the states of Jalisco, Sinaloa and Michoacán, the main producing areas of Mexico, ”he explains. 

"As Mexico grows in volume, especially in the period from September to December, it will pose a threat to Peru, since its participation will directly result in lower prices in the American market," he emphasizes. 

New varieties 

In the aspect of varietal replacement, an action that has been taken by several competing countries, Mario Salazar relates that it is known that most of the areas planted in Peru are Biloxi, which is a free variety. “However, many companies have already started to plant other varieties, such as Ventura, Emerald, Bonita, etc., that meet requirements such as high yield and quality. Quality aspects, such as a high brix and an even and notable "bloom", which are important for markets like China ".

The aspect of the varietal change is very important for the director of ECC, not only because of the exposed scope of higher productivity and quality of fruit, but because "the variety matters, to avoid the 'commoditization' of the Peruvian blueberry" he maintains, and exemplifies with the experience of the Peruvian grape industry, recalling the case of the Red Globe grape in Peru, "whose international price we 'kill' with an overproduction," he stresses. 

"Looking for varieties that leave Biloxi behind and focus on characteristics that fit with the tastes of the Chinese consumer, can be an escape valve for all the volume that is coming," he concludes in his reflection.

Martín Carrillo O. - Blueberries Consulting

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