Representatives of the Chilean Blueberry Fruit Committee analyzed the past season and the challenges of the industry

Some of the topics focused on analyzing the end of the season for both species, as well as the importance of maintaining quality and consistency to aim for greater competitiveness in destination markets. New genetics and varietal replacement were also important topics analyzed by prominent national and international experts in the field. Cherries & Berries International Seminar, organized by Blueberries Consulting and that had support from Prochile, INIA and the Ministry of Agriculture.

The event was developed with parallel seminars: One on blueberries and another on cherries. In addition, an exhibition hall was available, where various companies with products and services linked to both crops could present their offers to the participants.

The blueberry meeting began with words from Jorge Esquivel, director of Blueberries Consulting, who highlighted the work they do to have analysis that allows participants to improve their work: “In 2024, our International Blueberry Seminars will continue to support the industry in Chile, Peru, Mexico and Morocco. In addition, from May 8 to 10 we will be co-organizers of the Blueberry Arena at Macfrut 2024, in Rimini, Italy. And as part of our vision to continue opening opportunities, very soon we will take the World Blueberry Tour to China, organizing the first International Blueberries Consulting Seminar in this Asian giant,” he indicated, inviting those present to participate.

Then, Andres Armstrong, executive director of Chilean Fruit Blueberry Committee indicated that the industry is in a restructuring process as a result of the change that has occurred in the production of blueberries: “We went from being a country that produced, practically only against the season, to competing with countries like Peru and with countries that have grown, especially in recent times, such as Mexico, Morocco, and China, which imposes challenges and decisions that we must address as an industry, if we want to continue participating successfully in this sector at a global level,” he highlighted.

According to Armstrong, last season was good, especially due to the decline in Peruvian supply that left a much larger space that could be taken advantage of, particularly at the beginning of the campaign. “Which generated market conditions that allowed us to have better results. For much of the season we did well, because we harvested the fruit slowly and it arrived with very good quality, better than Peruvian fruit and that was rewarded with good prices. However, we had a 'BUT', in practice, because fruit was exported that did not have the condition or were not of the required varieties, which in the end harms the entire Chilean blueberry industry. We started the campaign well, but we didn't finish very well because we sent fruit that we shouldn't have sent. We had a bad reading of the volumes from Peru that were later, so fruit that did not arrive well from Chile was combined with larger volumes from Peru at the end of its season. At the peak of our supply there was more fruit than last season, from mid-December to the end of February,” he noted.

According to the representative of the Committee: “If we want to continue participating in this industry we have to be competitive and not only in our window but in all of them. If Peru had met its initial estimate of exporting 320.000 tons versus the 220.000 it sent in the last season, we are talking about 100.000 tons more than Chile exports. Therefore, this is our reality, and with it in mind we must continue working and assume that there will be more fruit on the market. Therefore, reaching the market well and paying well for the fruit is the challenge. From the Blueberry Committee 15 years ago we have worked on quality issues. Regarding varietal issues, we have classified the varieties into different groups that, in some way, have been oriented towards varieties that must be left aside and those that must be privileged. Therefore, it is important to do good management from the field and have optimal logistical services so that the fruit arrives well and reaches the markets faster."

Armstrong said this year the committee will evaluate mechanized fresh harvesting. “In the varieties we have in Chile, part of the harvest is done mechanized. The above will reduce costs and increase our capacity to harvest fruit, since it is difficult to count the number of people necessary to harvest well,” he indicated.

Season Analysis and Outlook

Julia Pinto, technical manager of the Chilean Blueberry Fruit Committee, gave the presentation “Analysis of the 2023-24 season in Quality and Condition. What do we expect for the future?, in which she indicated: “It was a good season because of the space that Peru left us, due to a drop in its production. However, we continue with the practice of exporting fruit that arrives at its destination with problems. Therefore, it is important to reflect on this. Another important issue is the volumes or the avalanche of kilos that we have in blueberries. Until week 11 of shipment, we had 367 million kilos (2023-2024), which is a lot of fruit, considering regular shipments from Peru and other competitors. This season there was a 22% drop and Mexico had a 22% drop,” said Pinto.

According to the professional: “if we think about the figure from the previous season and if we add the estimate from Peru and add Morocco, we could reach 500 million kilos of fruit that have to be placed in the markets. We are going to have blueberries all year round. There is no window and for that you have to have good products to be able to compete with other origins. Likewise, we must also evaluate what is happening with extreme weather events, which are becoming more and more extensive. For example, last season the heat waves were frequent and extensive, and they occurred in December. If we look at the south-central area, they left at the end of November, and then continued in December.

Julia Pinto Technical Manager Blueberry Committee of Chilean Fruits

And that hurt our fruit a lot, which is not an excuse for us to send fruit that is not appropriate, but it is a reality that we have to work on. In the southern zone we had fewer heat waves. However, this recent season changed the scenario: we did not have major heat waves in December in the south-central zone and neither did they happen in January, and mainly from the 15th of From January onwards, the heat waves began, but since we were behind - in some areas a week, in others 10 days or 2 weeks -, that fruit was affected by the heat waves. Therefore, we do not know what will happen with climatic events,” he indicated.

Pinto commented that in October all the meteorologists said that the heat would be horrible and we had temperatures above 40 degrees and that did not happen, which allowed us to get fruit earlier and with good quality. Regarding the verification program at origin and this consolidation at origin, the manager pointed out that all the member companies of the Committee are verified as to what they are taking out. “It is not a quality control, but a sample to know what they are releasing weekly. Therefore, we verify quality parameters, but we concentrate much more on the condition, which is what does not hit the destination the most. This fruit is classified as compliant and non-compliant, based on minimum regulations that the members of the Committee establish, along with verifying safety issues.”

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