The first organic Hokkaido squash –or gourds– produced in Chile have already arrived in Europe, providing a new production window in May and June for this organic vegetable, which is widely consumed in the north of the continent.
"We were already working with this product together with an Argentinian Hokkaido squash grower who has been producing them for more than 15 years in the province of Mendoza, but this is the first year that we will market Chilean ones," says Scarlette González, from the Belgian firm Greenline Gate . “They have been cultivated by a Chilean blueberry grower with plenty of experience in organic production, who decided to innovate and try this product. In fact, the squash that we received a week ago is the first and only Chilean organic Hokkaido at the moment,” she says.
This variety –also known as potimarron– is small, weighing between 0.5 and 2 kg, and it has an intense orange color. According to Scarlette, it stands out for being easy to cook and handle, and for having a good shelf life; characteristics that gave a boost to the demand for it during the pandemic, given the raised awareness about the benefits of a healthy diet and the consumption of organic foods.
However, their production in Chile was still affected by some challenges. “Before sowing and producing the squash, we had to import the organic seeds from a fully certified Dutch specialist and comply with the pertinent sanitary regulations to be able to introduce the seeds into the country. A gamble and a risk for the producer, since it entailed huge costs for a product that, in a way, was not well known in the area or the country,” says Scarlette. "However, we are very happy with the organic Hokkaido squash we have received and with the product's success among our organic customers."
According to the sales manager, most of the organic Hokkaido squash consumed in Europe is produced mainly in South Africa or New Zealand, but in May and June there is a gap that could be filled by Chile, where the production starts later. “That is why this season we have focused on promoting Chilean squash among our potential clients, making sure they know that it has already arrived and that Greenline Gate is distributing it. Next season, of course, we plan to increase the production in Chile.”
New 10 kg boxes
In addition to innovating with the introduction of Chilean squash, the Brussels-based company has also launched a new packaging for the South American vegetables it markets. “Previously, we always sold the product in bins, in large 500 kilo boxes, so the client could pack and sell it. But this year we have opted to pack the product ourselves in 10 kilo boxes through the platform that we have in the Netherlands,” says Scarlette González. “This allows us to verify the quality of what we deliver, box by box, so that the customer always receives a premium quality product and we can offer more flexibility in the deliveries without the need to plan programs.”
“Because of the pandemic, everyone is more cautious when buying. The market was clearly held back by difficulties related to labor, health regulations or slow dispatches, which made it all quite complex. But despite everything, we have been fortunate to obtain a good product and be able to deliver it to customers on time. And in the new boxes,” she says. "Also, I am pleasantly surprised by how well our new packaging has been accepted."