A stable season
With better results than last season, but less good than expected, the 2014 / 2015 season ended for the blueberry producers. Thus, although it was estimated that production could exceed 138 thousand tons and reach an export of 104 thousand, it ended with a production of 126.100 ton, of which 91.100 ton was destined for export. This result, with respect to the previous season, represents an increase of 31,21% and 22,07%, respectively. And although the prices did not always go along with it -the positive or negative of them depended on the market-, if it played in favor of a high dollar.
In relation to the estimates, the decrease in production was due to the impact of frost and the high temperatures recorded between January and March.
Although at this point, the frosts that occurred during September of 2013 had long-term effects on the plants, mainly in the Metropolitan and Sixth regions, the frost registered in October was added to 2014, which without being more invasive and violent than the previous, had an erratic effect on the plantations of the VII and VIII region.
"The results of the 2013 / 2014 season were a disaster due to the frost of the 2013. This was so strong that it not only affected the outbreaks of that season, but also burned the wood and ended up affecting this year's production.“, explains Isabel Quiroz, executive director of IQonsulting.
From organic to frozen
Another element that influenced the results of the season, in terms of the volume exported fresh, was the Lobesia botrana, although it did not have a significant impact at the production level. After the detection of the so-called vine moth in this berry, the United States established the requirement to fumigate the fruit exported to that country at destination. Hence, the organic fruit, not to be fumigated and thus lose that quality, chose to be used for freezing.
"The organic ones are freshly marketed normally and have a higher market value than conventional fruit; then, to not cease to be organic, they opted to send them to the frozen one, in case no fumigation is needed“, clarifies Isabel Quiroz.
The decrease in the export of organic fresh fruits was compensated by the fall in the portion of frozen in the IX and X regions. Here, the drought that negatively affects the area, especially livestock, played in favor of the blueberries of those two areas of the country, which could increase the volume sent as fresh and thus access to better prices.
"When there is a lot of rain the fruit softens a lot, so it is no longer good for fresh. However, this season there was no rain in the south, which allowed more consistent blueberries and able to support the trip“, explains the IQonsulting specialist.
One of the highlights of this last season was the exchange rate, which being higher compensated for eventual price drops or lower income due to having to send the fruit to frozen.
"The value of fresh fruits is approximately 80% more than the freeze and this year the dollar was around $ 600 approximately, compared to $ 500 per dollar last year“, says Felipe Jullierat, president of the Blueberry Committee.
In terms of prices, the United States had a decrease compared to the previous season -where there was much less fruit- which led to the average price being US $ 8,73 per kilo, versus the US $ 9,31 for the same volume of the campaign previous. Different was what happened with Europe, where the price for 2014 / 2015 was US $ 8,76 per kilo; that is, US $ 0,93 more than US $ 7,83 last year.
Continue expanding markets
As usual, this season the United States remained the main market for this berry, being responsible for the 63% of the shipments, although maintaining the tendency to decrease with respect to the previous seasons. Europe, meanwhile, was the 23%, which represents the reverse trend of the United States, since this market has increased by 6 points compared to the 2012 / 2013 season. Far East, likewise, continues gaining space and this season received the 10% of the total Chilean exports; what is a point more than the previous season.
Experts insist that one of the biggest challenges for next season is to continue advancing in emerging markets, to continue decompressing shipments to the United States.
"One of the objectives of the Committee of Blueberries has been to try that our blueberries can reach markets other than the US, which has always been the majority, important markets in Europe and Asian markets such as China and Korea. We are always looking at what other markets we have left to open, such as Thailand, Vietnam, Indonesia and India, so that Chilean blueberries have a more global presence“, says Jullierat.
Another challenge is to continue maintaining the good name and presence that Chilean blueberries have in foreign markets, especially considering that there are more and more countries that supply this fruit that threaten Chile's position in global exports. Thus, for example, in the last season, Argentina exported 16 tons, Mexico 3 tons, and Peru 3 tons, according to data provided by Jullierat.
"To achieve this, the important thing is to maintain the quality of our products and be ahead in the replacement of old varieties for new varieties, thus preserving the quality and profitability that allow the producer to operate and have an adequate utility“, emphasizes Jullierat.
It is also important to keep the attention on what the neighbors are doing, where while the production of Argentina is improving, the Peruvian still faces problems especially of quality, since some of the varieties would not be responding according to what was expected when planting them. .
As for Chile, although it is still too early to make projections, Jullierat estimates that next season the growth could move between a 10% and approximately 15%.
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