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Argentina: Blueberry exporters want to depend less on the US.
In the last year, seven out of 10 Argentine blueberries were destined for the United States. That 70% of the harvest is perceived as a very high volume that generates a dependence that could be avoided not only because of these reasons, but also for those of competence and positioning. "We want to concentrate fewer shipments to the United States," acknowledged Federico Bayá, president of the Argentinian Blueberry Committee (ABC), an entity with 14 partners representing 85% of the nation's fruit export to El Cronista.
The need for better positioning in markets such as the European or the Asian, and the strong competition generated by the entry of Peruvian blueberries to the United States since last year, which compete directly with the Argentine product, supports this diversification strategy. From one year to the next, Peru went from exporting 20,000 tons (2015) to 40,000 tons in 2016, reducing product prices by 20%. "Last year we had a critical return on high costs and increased competition," said Bayá.
The intention is to look increasingly at the demand of markets such as the English, which value quality more than price, an item where Argentine blueberries benefit. In this sense, the goal of the industry for this year is to send more tons to the old continent, and reduce shipments to the United States to less than 60% of the total.
That race also includes the Asian demand, and the Chinese market is positioned with great potential. "We are working hard to open it but we have a health barrier because China does not approve the treatment that would allow them to be flown in. We can only go by boat with cold treatment but it takes 45 days," said the manager. Countries such as Uruguay, Peru, or Chile have met the two export protocols, and Peru and Chile are also involved, with the addition of free trade agreements, which are duty free. Peru, for example, expects to place 20% of its production in the Chinese market this season, a volume which Argentina would like to emulate.
As the new harvest begins, Gabriel Wasserman, director of Gramm Agropecuaria, commented that they face a complex campaign with higher logistical, tax and labor costs than competitor countries.
"We are also confident that we have very important strengths in quality and know-how, and the air logistics to reach almost all markets," he said. The executive stressed that they have incorporated for this season a classifier that allows them to select 100% of the classified fruit by firmness, defects and size. "This is one of the requirements to enter the Chinese market, which Argentina is in the final steps to achieve a sanitary opening."
The industry also works in the development of maritime logistics, something that had to be adapted since last year due to the Peruvian competition, and it allows you to lower costs. "We are working with the Government and waiting for the tax and labor reform. We have already advanced in suspending the resolution that established the payment of 25 kilograms per piece that limited production, "said Bayá.
In numbers, exports are expected to be similar to last year's, which was around 18,500 tonnes, close to the record 19,400 tonnes exported in 2011. Entry into the Chinese market, in addition to others such as the Japanese, Korean or Indian, could generate a growth in the planted area in the producing provinces (such as Entre Ríos, Corrientes or Tucumán), which this year allocated some 2800 hectares. In total, last year the market generated foreign exchanges for US $ 110 million.
Publication date: 9/7/2017
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