Blueberry exports from the region of Coquimbo have experienced a great boost in recent years, as they increased 93.5% over the last season. It has become a great alternative source of revenue for regional producers.
Chile's Blueberry Committee stated that they expected the country's exports to increase by 3% in the 2016-2017 season and that they would ship 94.276 tons of blueberries to different markets.
According to a report by iQonsulting and the Blueberry Committee, the nation's blueberry production will grow by 4.3%, from 135,539 tons in the 2015/2016 season to 141,404 tons this season.
Andres Armstrong, executive director of the Chilean Blueberry Committee, said that "it looks like a very good season for Chilean blueberries, as we'll continue to achieve the quality and taste that has characterized our product all these years. We keep working on promotion and the development of markets for Chilean blueberries in different parts of the world."
According to the report, this season's maximum temperatures have been normal, slightly higher than that in 2015 and with a higher thermal buildup, which advanced the harvest by two weeks when compared to the previous campaign, which was delayed by the cold weather in spring.
Isabel Quiroz, Executive Director of iQonsulting, spoke about the frost recorded in mid-September in the region of Valparaiso and the South. "The impact is not clear yet; however, it would have mainly affected the early varieties that were curdling, especially in the Maule Region and to a lesser extent in the metropolitan and O'Higgins regions."
She added: "The first indications are that nearly 20% of the early varieties production in the aforementioned regions was affected, which could impact up to 2,000 tons."
Quiroz also highlighted the high stock of frozen blueberries in the United States and its impact on prices. "That large stock could lead to a decrease in prices of frozen Chilean blueberries this season, discouraging producers from opting for this alternative, which means they could opt for the fresh market," said Quiroz.
According to projections, the region of Maule will be the leading blueberry exporting region, as it would ship a total of 31.650 tons in the present season, i.e. 35% more than it exported in the previous campaign.
It will be followed by the Region of Bio Bio, with a total of 28.240 tons projected, i.e. 4% less than in the previous season; and the Region of La Araucanía, which is expected to export 9.797 tons of blueberries, 4% less than in the previous season.
Meanwhile, the regions of Atacama and Coquimbo should have the largest increase in blueberry exports, as they are expected to export 2,044 tons, i.e. 93.5% more than the 1,056 tons they exported last season.
The country is expected to ship more than 8,000 tons of blueberries in the harvest first peak to various target markets, and an estimated 10,000 tons in the second peak of the year.
Nationally, 60% of the blueberry production will go to industry, to manufacture sweets, cakes, ice creams, and yogurts. Every year producers discover new uses for the fruit. Lately, the US market has been selling natural blueberry juice and frozen dehydrated blueberries that can be consumed with cereals. The remaining 40% of the production is consumed fresh.
That is why regional entrepreneurs, mainly from Illapel and Salamanca, where production has increased significantly in recent years despite the constant drought in the southern part of the region, are already looking at new markets such as Asia.