Even though Bolivia isn't known as a major producer of blueberries, which are considered a super fruit because of its antioxidant and anticancer properties, in 2006 the government of Tarija commissioned an investigation to adapt this crop in the Central Valley, as a new productive alternative for rural areas.
The project, run by Marcal Consultants with the support of the Valles Foundation, concluded in 2010 with samples that anticipated good performance and profitability. The good results led to the formation of Bolivia's Blueberry Producers Association, which brought together some 14 producers.
The company Andean Blueberries is among the pioneers in the field. Their business manager, Larry Serrate, said their motivation was to do something innovative since cultivating blueberries was something that had never been tried in the country before the research of 2006 and because it is an export product with a high added-value.
Serrate said it had taken them a year to identify that Entre Rios, in Tarija, was the perfect place to grow blueberries as it had the soil, climate and water conditions required by the fruit.
Initially, the seedlings were imported from Chile, but the company is currently developing them in their own nurseries. Currently, Andean Blueberries has two to three hectares in production, but their project is to have 50 hectares in different phases.
Managing this crop requires a very high level of knowledge as, for example, fertilization should be carefully dosed, women harvest this fruit because they handle it more delicately, and its transportation and packaging requires cold chain and special packaging.
Initially, Serrate recalled, the blueberry was sold only in Tarija, but it is currently being sold in the markets of Santa Cruz, La Paz and Cochabamba, where they can easily send the product by air.
This year's production amounted to six tons, but estimates are that production will amount to 14 tons in 2015. There are two harvest seasons a year that generate 22 direct jobs.