THE BLUER THE BERRY

Peru 2017 | AGRICULTURE | FOCUS

In less than 10 years, Peru's blueberry industry has expanded exponentially, placing the country among the biggest exporters of the fruit in the region.

Blueberries were introduced for the first time in Peru in 2007. The climatic conditions of the Andean country were ideal, characterized by light soil, good quality water, and an absence of rain during harvest time. All this combined with the workforce and logistical facilities available to offer the perfect circumstances for allowing blueberries to grow year-long for distribution in the international market.

According to the latest market trends and official statistics, Peru is establishing itself as a leading player in the agribusiness sector in general, and as one of the main producers and exporters of blueberries on a global scale. In the southern hemisphere, Peru is a newcomer to the blueberry industry. Chile has been exporting blueberries for more than three decades, along with Australia, New Zealand, and South Africa. In Latin America, Argentina along with Uruguay and Mexico are also consolidating their operations in the blueberry segment.

The success of Peruvian blueberry harvests has been remarkable. According to Sierra Exportadora, in 2012, exports of blueberries totaled USD484,000 production subsequently increased dramatically, with exports reaching USD15.1 million in 2013. Modern genetics have overcome the challenges of growing blueberries in certain climatic conditions. During an interview with TBY, Ulises Quevedo, CEO of Grupo Rocio, stressed the pivotal role that innovation and R&D play for the development of the sector. “Blueberries have evolved into a viable commodity, but they started as an R&D project, as did avocados, mangos, grapes, and pomegranates.

The industry has learned and matured over time and what was a spontaneous investment in R&D has become a structured and a budgeted part of our economy. An ideal scenario is for one or two out of 10 R&D products to become successful products over a five-year research period," said Quevado, adding, “We have challenged the industry by bringing blueberries to the desert." The results are immediate: according to the Peruvian Exporters Association (ADEX), between January and July 2014 Peru exported USD5.6 million of blueberries, up 480% compared to the results achieved the previous year.

In the international arena, the main consumers and importers of blueberries are the US, with imports valued at USD600 million in 2014, the UK with USD197 million in exports the same year, followed by Canada and the Netherlands. The UK is considered to be a key market within EU: health, convenience, availability, taste, and quality are driving blueberry sales in the sophisticated British market. According to www.producebusinessuk.com, 11.3 million households in the UK bought blueberries in 2014 versus 4 million in 2006. Penetration is at 42% currently, up from 20% five years ago.

The demand for blueberries in Asia, and China in particular, is constantly rising. Over the past five years, imports went from USD464,000 to USD29.2 million in 2014. “We expect to open the market by the second half of next year or early 2017. It is still unclear what role China will play in our exports, but it could easily reach at least 30% of the market—as big as Europe, or possibly as large as the US within 10 years," informed Quevedo.
According to Sierra Exportadora, in 2015 the total land for blueberry crops occupied 2,500ha and it is expected to reach 3,200 in 2016. According to an article published in www.freshplaza.com, “The expectation is that blueberry crops yield between 10,000 and 15,000kg per hectare; however, taking into account that the investment per hectare is between USD40,000 to USD45,000 dollars, if producers have a minimum yield of 5,000 kg/ha, and prices are at USD10 per kilogram, they would have yearly profits of USD50,000."

The main regions that are investing in the production of blueberries are Ancash, Apurímac, Arequipa, Cajamarca, Cusco, Junín, La Libertad, Lambayeque, and Pasco. By 2021, when the crops in these areas will be fully productive, Peru will have 30,000ha of blueberries.

Find out more with TBY's latest animation: https://goo.gl/h7gews