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Argentina: Berry producers getting good yields

The Valley of Limay smells like strawberries at this time of the year. Amidst the berry harvest, producers start to get good yields this season. The main berry producing municipalities are Plottier, China Muerta, and Senillosa where families in some 16 establishments are gathering the berries to cater a growing demand of this product.

The fields of Plottier produce strawberries, raspberries and blackberries, mainly.
Mariano Villanueva, from the establishment of del Viento Sur, said: "Our harvest runs from October to May. It is an excellent season production wise, and we have very good prices in the domestic market. Unfortunately we don't know what will happen in the coming months, regarding the purchases of supplies and competitiveness."

The cold spring and the frost didn't harm the berries but they did delay them. Since they don't depend on a single bloom, there's always a harvest. Neuquen has 35 or 40 hectares of strawberries, and 35 or 40 hectares of raspberry and blackberry. Expectations are that the region will have an average yield of 800 tons. The fruit will be sold in fresh and the smaller calibers will be sold to the industry.

Veronica Garcia, owner of Los Garcia said that the harvest had been delayed 20 days but that the fruit had a good quality and that the raspberry and blackberry harvest had started last week.

On the shelves
Berry producers say the activity has a steady growth. "There is great demand, especially of strawberries. Before, it was for a select group but now everybody buys it. We are trying to place fresh blackberries and raspberries in the shelves so that the public consumes them like that because they've always were offered frozen," said Villanueva.

Only two producers in the region do it in a larger scale, with structures, cold storage and containers. Los García, as many others, has a small production. It is a family harvest and they also make jams. "Demand is always higher than what we have, so we work together with the neighbors. We try to agree about prices with everyone so that there is no competition," Veronica said.

Wages in the spotlight
One of the problem faced by these establishments is that they have to compete with the wages paid by the oil sector when they need to hire labor. "It is difficult to compete in coexistence with the activity and that can increase our costs more than in other regions," Villanueva said.

Another phenomenon is the arrival of people from the north. "Workers from Bolivia, Santiago del Estero, and other provinces have joined us. They're families that were engaged in horticulture and that are dedicated to strawberries because it has high profits," said Anibal Caminiti of the SME Center.

Small producers expect the coming changes not to affect their economies. "There is speculation that some buyers are not placing orders because they expect imports to be released. I have suppliers that have increased prices by 30% or 40% just in case," said Villanueva.


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