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Argentinian blueberries aim to consolidate worldwide

In an interview, the president of Apratuc, Luis D'Andrea, outlined the results of the province's blueberry campaign.

Architect Luis D'Andrea, president of the Association of Blueberry Producers of Tucuman (Apratuc) and head of Hortifrut Expofresh, said that "the campaign has yet to finish, but we believe that exports will grow by about 20% with virtually the same planted acreage and the same number of exporters and producers. This is due to the favourable winter weather."

In Tucuman there are sufficient amounts of skilled labourers and manpower, as the citrus industry is labour intensive and generates a substantial body of harvesters.

"Despite this, it is not easy to find readily available labourers, as inter-harvest plans motivate workers not to register to avoid losing that benefit."

"While there is support from the Secretariat of Employment of Tucuman, we need the plans granted not to interfere with the registering. The labourers aim to work in the harvest and, in turn, benefit from the Inter-harvest Plan, as they believe that the activity is just for the short term, while the plan's benefits extend for up to five months."

"It is difficult for producers to intervene in this labour situation. We have held meetings between the Ministry of Labour and Social Security of the Nation, the Department of Employment of Tucuman, Renatea, Uatre and the Producers Association, but a definitive solution to the situation could not be found."

"In the case of temporary assistance with the harvest, the Association proposes that the plans are granted without the condition of having to be registered as an employee, so that the Government may have an actual reading of the situation of workers."

Logistics and cold chamber facilities
"This year, carriers operating from Tucuman increased their US tariffs by 12% (in dollars). This is due to the fact that companies are affected by import restrictions, which results in planes arriving with smaller loads."

Costs in general have increased by about 40% (in pesos) and the currency's devaluation has been of around 30%. This translates into a "loss in competitiveness for the country."

In the case of the Airport's Cold Terminal, operating costs stand approximately 12% below those of Ezeiza.

These tariffs were set through an agreement of the Province's Government.

Operating from Tucuman is advantageous to ensure product quality, but in order to exploit the full potential of the logistics terminal it will be necessary to ensure that the airport can operate at any time and not just outside commercial flight times, as it is at present.

Prices and challenges
With regard to selling prices, it was a difficult season in the international markets, as the Northern Hemisphere's late production was delayed and that of our hemisphere arrived earlier. This resulted in low prices from the start of the season, which dropped even further with the increase in supply.

Although the blueberry sector seems to have consolidated, we still have a long way to go.

It is a new sector, which has entailed high costs in training. Moreover, the product is highly perishable and requires intensive handling, as well as an adequate harvest and logistics. We just need to continue learning.

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