When it comes to South American blueberries, it seems the emphasis is increasingly on finding new, productive varieties. "We have to adapt to a new world, and variety innovations can help you maintain your position in a changing global market," Andrés Armstrong, Chilean Blueberry Committee, told the audience at the recently held Global Berry Congress. Roger Horak also talked about his OzBlu Peruvian blueberries situation.
"The blueberry market is getting overfull, volume-wise," says Andrés. "That made us want to focus on quality rather than quantity because, to stay profitable, you must differentiate yourself in this changing market." The pandemic is slowly blowing over, yet many cost and transportation challenges remain.
That, he explains, leads to a search for future-proof varieties with reliable yields. "We're one of the largest blueberry exporters in the world, a position we'd obviously like to keep. However, it's a process of trial and error," Andrés admits. "You have to see what works and whether it wholly suits the Chilean soil and climate."
That makes him optimistic about the current season, though he says Chile will send lower volumes to the international market. "We'll keep the newer, tested varieties on the local market before we consider exporting them. There are also great opportunities in the search for new markets. Asia is becoming increasingly interesting, but even there, quality takes precedence, so we'll have to evolve, something on which we're fully focused," Andrés states.
Tinder for blueberries
Roger Horak agrees: "If you market a good product, people will pay for it. We're having a good season, with nice quality and good demand. Plus, the situation's gradually normalizing after years of difficulties. Of course, there are still challenges in today's world, but it's an easier season than last year."
"But you have to be distinctive. There are global market opportunities for Peruvian blueberries. We have wonderful varieties and fruit in Peru but cannot always find the appropriate partners to supply." That gives Roger an idea that is not typical for the trade market. "There should actually be a kind of Tinder for blueberries. We have the fruit and are looking for reliable partners. I'm sure there are companies looking for great fruit but can't find it. That would provide a solution for many and perhaps even fill a gap in the market," he concludes.