Current situation of blueberry production in Mexico

During the first quarter of this year, berries were positioned as the first most exported agri-food product in Mexico. Blueberries represent 15% of Mexican berry exports. In 2021, Mexico had a production of more than 70,000 tons of blueberries or blueberries.

Likewise, the crop has shown a growth greater than 20% during the last years, both in surface and in production. This growth has had a very important social repercussion for the country, with different social implications and challenges (Graph 1).

The sector is currently facing different challenges such as labor shortages, water supply, different phytosanitary problems, and has concentrated on developing the national market and encouraging local consumption. On the other hand, there are also great opportunities.

Currently, about 97% of the production, or 68,300 tons, is exported to 31 export destinations, mainly to the United States. Important developing markets such as Japan, Hong Kong and the United Arab Emirates, among others, stand out.

Organic Production New Varieties

Organic production has become highly relevant globally.

Currently 15% of the blueberry area in Mexico, around 1,360 hectares, is produced organically. About 10,500 tons of organic blueberries have been exported during the current season.

On the other hand, around 6% of the total area produces new varieties this season. 70% of the area is produced with the Biloxi variety. Of the remainder, 80% is produced with private varieties and 20% with public varieties.

Production Trend 

Currently 53% of blueberry plants are grown in soil, while 47% are in containers or pots (hydroponics), and the trend will increase in the coming years.

Due to the increase in production volume and other advantages offered by production with substrates, the tendency to plant in containers or pots continues to increase each season (Table 1).

This technology supposes the establishment of 6,000 plants per ha. to obtain between 15 and 18 tons per ha.

Area and Jobs

Total area of ​​Blueberries or blueberries in Mexico amounts to 9,100 hectares (Graph 2).

The growth in the area goes hand in hand with the generation of more jobs. Currently, 72,656 formal jobs are generated in the sector, 45% of which are women, who collaborate and contribute to gender equality (Table 2).

Workforce Challenges

The shortage of specialized labor is a reality in the main agricultural operations in central and northern Mexico, where most of the high-tech production of vegetables, berries and avocados for export is concentrated, in states such as Sonora, Sinaloa, Baja California, Chihuahua, Guanajuato, Jalisco and Michoacán, among others.

The difficulty for farmers to send recruiters to states such as Oaxaca, Guerrero, Chiapas and Veracruz, to recruit day laborers each season, is growing, both from a logistical and economic point of view. In addition, they have failed to retain their interest in returning year after year. Other industries, such as the automotive industry, have managed to attract and retain them. In addition, California's nearly $50 billion agricultural industry is recruiting a record number of seasonal agricultural workers (H2-As), nearly 25,000 last year.

Currently, new Social Responsibility Certification schemes seek to ensure compliance with their labor rights and working conditions in Mexico, while new public policies, on the other hand, seek to keep them in their communities of origin, through the implementation of tropical crop programs. , which generate employment for the local workforce. However, it could happen that labor from abroad had to be used.

The success of large investments for the production of vegetables and berries depends on its availability.

This is already one of the most important problems of Mexican agriculture. Our nearly 2.5 million agricultural laborers are no longer enough to meet the growing demand.

Irrigation systems

The use of water, by type of irrigation, ranges between 40 and 65% in flood irrigation, between 80 and 85% in sprinkler irrigation and between 90 and 95% in drip irrigation.

1. Hydroponic Irrigation

The recirculating hydroponic irrigation system is the most efficient system since all the water is used for production and there is minimal waste.

2. Localized irrigation

It is the one with the lowest evaporation losses because it is only applied to the area near the emitter, and the volume of water used is practically directly available to the plant.

3. Sprinkler irrigation

Sprinkler irrigation offers less efficiency than the previous ones due to the fact that a large amount of irrigation water remains on the surface of the soil and the plants are evaporated after irrigation and due to drift problems caused by the wind.

4. Flood irrigation

Flood irrigation is the one with the lowest irrigation efficiency since a large part of the water is lost by evaporation as the surface of the farm remains flooded, and above all due to losses due to runoff and deep percolation.

Availability and price of inputs

The current situation is very complex:

1. Unfinished Russia-Ukraine conflict.

2. Commercial, financial, and business sanctions against Russia interrupt the supply of Natural Gas to Europe, a key input for its production, causing a shortage of raw materials for the production of fertilizers that are exported from Europe to the world. Ukraine presents stagnation of exports of grains and fertilizers.

3. Redefinition of Logistics Routes. New origins are created — new alternatives.

4. Commercial closure for export: China, US, Russia, Belarus and Ukraine. China closes for Protectionism towards food security. In addition, he closes his country due to COVID.

5. Subsidy for protection against the food security crisis of the large countries.

Natural Gas (Productive Base) 

1. 40% of Europe's Natural Gas comes from Russia.

2. 20%NH3 (Ammonia) from Europe, comes from Russia.

Nitrogen

Natural Gas—NH3 — N (Various) — Compound Nitrogens

Protectionism in several countries.

Phosphorus

Morocco Main Producer.

Potassium

The main producers are Russia, Belarus, China and Canada.

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