The last two weeks of January will be the most intense blueberry harvest and export period. The Regional Director of SAG, Andrew Duval, visited the Hortifrut plant in Rio Negro. He watched the collection of fruit in the field and witnessed a health inspection team of the SAG checking that exports meet the requirements imposed by destination countries.
According to Duval, there are 8 establishments exporting fresh blueberries in the province of Osorno. Together, these establishments ship nearly 3,000 tons of blueberries each season, mainly to Europe, Asia, and the United States. "The product is packed in boxes, and they export nearly 900,000 boxes of blueberries each season," he said.
Giovanna Soto, the plant manager at Hortifrut Rio Negro, received the regional director of SAG and spoke in detail about the fruit's process in the plant, which receives an average of 2 million kilos of blueberries each season.
Soto said that, compared to other years, the blueberry harvest had started two weeks early due to favorable climatic factors in spring. She also said that they estimated the harvest would end two weeks earlier than usual, in late February. "We have more fruits in the orchards this season. However, due to the heavy rainfall in January, there's been more fruit rejected due to rot. The fruit discarded is sold as an IQF product, i.e. not as a fresh fruit but frozen or as a concentrate," Soto said.
"Despite the climate factor, we expect to have a higher production volume this season. Last year we processed 2 million kilos and this year we want to achieve 2.2 million kilos of blueberries," Soto stated.
"We process fruit from fields associated to Hortifrut, from the regions of Los Rios and Los Lagos, as well as from non-member producers. All together, it adds up to the aforementioned volume," Soto said.
The professional said the region was located in an area free of grapevine moth (Lobesia botrana), which is why they are sending so much fruit to the United States.
"The premium varieties are sent to a plant in Los Angeles to be processed and then they are sent to Asia and Europe. The most demanding markets are the Asian markets, which demand zero red fruits and calibers of 14 and up," she said.
Blueberries are mostly consumed fresh, but they are also used in juices, smoothies, sauces, and as an ingredient in desserts.
Chile is the second largest producer of blueberries in the world and the largest one in South America. It produces about 80,000 tons per year and supplies the US, European, and Asian demand for this fruit in the off season.
"The region of Los Lagos has nearly 1,000 hectares of blueberry orchards, distributed mainly in the province of Osorno. It is an emerging category that has had a positive impact on the local economy," the regional director of SAG stated.