The industry will focus its exports on varieties with better performance. To date, rains and other weather phenomena do not show significant negative effects on the sector. While it is still early to predict the potential impact of the El Niño phenomenon during the season.
The Chilean Blueberry Committee - Asoex, in collaboration with iQonsulting, has released the first estimate of Chilean fresh blueberry exports for the 2023-2024 season. The projection indicates a 6% decrease compared to the previous year, while highlighting an estimated 10% growth in frozen blueberry shipments.
These projections are based on a rapidly changing production base, with this year's planted hectares reaching 18,071, representing a 2% smaller area than in 2022. "This decrease is explained by older varieties with lower productivity and post-harvest life, of which 1,164 hectares have been uprooted, and the planting of 607 hectares of new varieties," noted Andrés Armstrong, executive director of the Blueberry Committee.
Furthermore, the professional added that "the hectares of new varieties currently exceed 20% of the planted area and should show more significant production increases in the following seasons."
On the other hand, Armstrong commented that regarding varieties with good productivity but weaker post-harvest performance, they are being directed in greater proportion towards the frozen market. "An alternative that, when managed for this purpose, is an attractive option for producers," he observed.
Strategy: New Varieties and More Efficient Management
The executive director of the Committee explained that the strategy adopted by the Blueberry Committee and its associated companies aims to renew varieties and create more efficient production methods and logistics services, allowing for consistent quality in the markets as well as competitive costs.
"We are not speculating about what may happen with the Peruvian supply in December and January. We have a unique opportunity to show our customers that we can be a necessary and reliable supplier, and our associated exporters are focusing on this goal.
Thinking that there might be an opportunity to continue exporting fruit that does not meet the quality that the market requires and expects seems to us to be a way of endangering the future of our industry. The countries competing with Chile, not just Peru, will continue to increase production in the coming years. There is demand for this growth, but only for fruit that meets current market standards," emphasized the representative of Chilean blueberries.
Finally, regarding the anticipation of any impact from El Niño, Andrés Armstrong explained: "It is still too early to know what impact this weather phenomenon will have on our production and harvesting periods. To date, the heavy rains in regions with significant blueberry acreage have occurred before flowering and have not had a major impact on production.
On the other hand, the lower accumulation of chill hours, a phenomenon that has heavily affected blueberry production in Peru, will have a lesser impact in Chile since it occurred in regions where blueberry production is not significant in our country. We will be monitoring on a weekly basis the possible impact that probable rains, frosts, and temperature changes associated with El Niño may have on the volumes to be exported from Chile," he concluded.