Chilean prototype for Southern Hemisphere produce penetrating world markets

Posted by AFN Staff Writers on 1st November 2012

Chilean blueberry exporters are laughing all the way to the bank while Australian blueberry growers languish in depressed domestic market oversupply. Chilean blueberry shipments to North America, Europe and Asia are doing very well.

Although a relatively new industry in South America, Chile has quickly become the largest exporter of blueberries to the Northern Hemisphere.

“American importers are certainly competing for Chilean fruit with emerging markets,” said Tom Tjerandsen, general director for North America of the Chilean Fresh Fruit Association (CFFA), adding that “Chilean exporters have assured us that they wish to maintain their long business relationship with North America.”

One of the reasons why they would wish to maintain it, explained Tjerandsen, is because Chilean producers plan to continue boosting production.

“Producers are expanding, with new varieties in new areas,” he added.

In late September, the earliest blueberry production areas in north Chile started producing light volumes, said Tom Richardson, general manager of Giumarra in Wenatchee, Washington.

And these were not headed north, he said.

“The majority of them are shipped exclusively to Asia,” stated Richardson, adding that Japan is still not in a position to accept Argentinian blueberries. As a result, the Chilean produce is being used to fill this gap.

Japan, said Giumarra’s representative, is offering great deals to Chilean exporters, which they surely are unable to refuse.

“Fruit is being shipped there at really high prices,” he said.

Blueberry harvesting,  like most fruits grown outside glasshouses, is seasonal. Thus growing fruit in the Southern Hemisphere is attractive for exporters who are able to fetch premium prices in places where produce would be harvested at the opposite time of the year.

Australians are already familiar with this concept and pay premium prices in the Australian winter for imported cherries and navel oranges from the USA. However, there are not as many Australian companies doing what the Chileans are doing so successfully by exporting at premium prices to Northern Hemisphere countries.

According to the Australian Blueberry Growers’ Association (ABGA), most of the blueberries sold in Australia are Australian grown, but the focus is on the domestic market rather than export. The Australian industry consists of growers in New South Wales, Victoria, Tasmania, Queensland, Western Australia and South Australia.