Even though the end of the restrictions on the entry of blueberries to the United States has been announced for years, the SAG and producers are confident that, after five years, the US market will lift their demand to fumigate the fruit, which has affected the fruit's competitiveness and quality, especially for organic producers who have been unable to market their berries as such due to this measure.
The national director of SAG, Horacio Borquez, who met in Chillan on Thursday with the president of Fedefruta, Jorge Valenzuela, and with leaders of the Ñuble Farmers' Association, led by Alvaro Gatica, announced that the Systems Approach should be implemented within the current year. "A System Approach procedure, which is now ready, was agreed upon with the United States Department of Agriculture. The next step corresponds to the North American normative process."
In December 2013, the United States sanitary authority required that all shipments of blueberries from the regions of O'Higgins, Maule and Bio Bio (including Ñuble) that arrived in North American ports be fumigated with methyl bromide, after detecting the presence of the Lobesia botrana plague or moth of the vine cluster in them.
From that moment the SAG implemented a pest control strategy and the Ministry of Agriculture authorities have held numerous bilateral diplomatic and technical meetings, as well as field inspections, to achieve the lifting of restrictions. So far their efforts have been unsuccessful.
"We are waiting for news, our technical teams went to the United States less than a month ago and we are waiting for the answer of the analysis that the Americans are performing; I think the Systems Approach will be working next season for sure," Borquez stated.
He said the mechanism involved registering the orchards that can demonstrate that they do not have Lobesia, so that they don't have to fumigate their products. The director of the SAG highlighted the impact this will have on organic producers, who had been unable to market their product as organic due to these restrictions and will now be able to do so again.
Alvaro Gatica stressed that this was a very important issue for the region, as the blueberry is the main fruit exported by Ñuble, and said he was confident that the restrictions would be lifted this year. Unlike the previous announcements, he said, this formula is better and it's very advanced.
"We feel much more secure, although this does not depend on us or the SAG, but on the United States, and I understand that they are quite advanced with the Systems Approach, so next season we shouldn't have to spray our products," he said.