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"Uruguay: "Berry size does matter, and it matters a lot"

Spring is the time of year in which the highest peak in strawberry sales are reached. The harvest is new so the fruit’s size is at its biggest. The latest report from the Mercado Modelo indicates that a kilo costs wholesalers about $30.

The increase in the supply of strawberries corresponds to the production areas of this fruit in Uruguay, which is divided into two poles. Production levels are very strong on the northern coast between the months of May and June while, in the south of the country, the production increases in late September and early October.

"Fundamentally, when the department of San José joins the northern supply, it determines these peaks in supply, which in turn explains the product’s low prices and why it becomes accessible to consumers," said Pablo Pacheco from the training and promotion unit of the Mercado Modelo.

"Size does matter for fruit and vegetables and it matters a lot," said Pacheco, who explained that the strawberry’s dimensions correspond with the harvest period. Thus, at this time, when the country is transitioning between the northern and southern harvests, the southern crops receive more nourishment and strength, which determines the larger size they have in the last batch. Moreover, compared to the previous batches of fruit coming from the north and in their final stage, the difference is large.

Size has no direct incidence on the fruit’s flavor, although people say that the bigger the fruit is the worse its taste is, said Pacheco.

The strawberry plant’s cycle allows for production throughout much of the year but not at accessible prices. The plant begins to flower while other parts are ready for harvest and that extends its lifetime. "Salto began harvesting in May and they are still picking strawberries from the same plants," exemplified Pacheco.

Wholesalers buy four kilos of strawberries at $120, that is $30 per kilo, and even after the price is then adjusted by the retailers, the price paid by the consumers continues to be affordable.

This situation encourages producers to seek other destinations for their production so they are starting to market the fruit in the industry for the production of jams or yogurt, for example. This process differs from selling the strawberries for fresh consumption because they must be stripped and fitted for this.


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