The vice president of Foreign Trade of the National Agricultural Council (CNA), Mario Alejandro Andrade Cardenas, said the conversion of red fruits, or berries, had began ten years ago, mainly because of the entry of large companies that were going to produce them in Mexico.
In the last four years, small farmers began planting in new areas, which "boosted the sector, we now have stronger players in the industry and that has potentiated it. Additionally, there has been a growth in demand," he said.
According to data from CNA, 60 percent of the berry producers are foreign companies and 40 percent are nationals.
"We have been growing at a sustained rate of 20 percent annually, and we expect to grow at the same level for the next four years so we would double the production area and exports," he said.
Exports between 2014 and 2015 also increased by 20 percent and, in the past 10 years, exports have increased by 86 percent in volume and 90 percent in profits.
As a result, the berries have become the third highest selling field export product, behind tomatoes and avocados; displacing other commodities such as pepper, melon, watermelon, papaya and mango, according to the Bank of Mexico (Banxico).
This export potential of the last two years, said Andrade Cardenas, was favored by the food embargo imposed on Russia because of its conflict with Ukraine; which caused the closure of trade between the US, Europe, and the former Soviet Union.
"In Europe we have seen significant growth in countries like Britain, France, Italy, and in the Netherlands, which is an export hub of the fruit that is distributed throughout the old continent," said the expert.
According to data from the Ministry of Economy, the export volume to the United States, the main destination for the Mexican berries, increased by 10 percent in 2015; to the UK by 16 percent; to France by 4 percent, and to Russia by 24 percent, as this country has sought to import from other countries.
Currently, he said, producers are discussing a draft law, which must be authorized by them to continue the legislative process, that is suitable to the needs of the sector. Additionally, they need to develop new technologies for endemic plant varieties that are more resistant to pests.
Betting on the Asia and Latin American markets
To maintain the berry production growth rates, the industry is betting on increased trade promotion in Asian countries, the Arabian Peninsula, and Latin America.
It is worth noting that Mexico conducted its first shipment of raspberries and blackberries from Jalisco and Michoacan to China on January 28, 2015; following the agreements reached between the Mexican and Chinese governments. As a result, the export volume rose from 567 kilograms in 2014 to a total of 573,703 in 2015.
Mario Alejandro Andrade said they expected to continue aiming to the Eastern market, as they exported to China, Japan, South Korea, Malaysia, and Taiwan, among others.
Berry producers expect to place their products in the Arabian Peninsula in the coming months after Mexico and Saudi Arabia have signed 11 agreements. "This is an opportunity to grow in that region of the world," he said.
Finally, Andrade stated that it was essential to find mechanisms for export to Latin American countries, as they haven't had any so far, to be able to compete against Chile, their main competitor in the area.
"Our advantage is that the Mexican countryside produces berries throughout nine months. Chile, Argentina and Peru are our competitors in cranberries and blueberries, the raspberry is only to process it, so we must pay attention to the Southern Cone markets," he said.
In the last decade the Mexican peasants began to opt for more profitable products and for products that had less competition in the international levels; as a result berryexports amount to more than 1,198 million dollars a year and are higher than the income achieved by tropical or citrus exports.
Blackberry, raspberry, blueberry, and blackcurrant exports are greater than tropical fruit exports of papaya, watermelon, and mango, and greater than citrus exports of limes and oranges, which achieved earnings below 380 million dollars a year, according to data from 2014 from the Secretariat of Agriculture, Livestock, Rural Development, Fisheries and Food (SAGARPA).