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Argentine blueberry season wrapped up with stable numbers and higher sea shipments

Argentine blueberry season wrapped up with stable numbers and higher sea shipments

Despite the challenges presented by the pandemic, Argentina exported 11,000 tons of fresh blueberries and 3,500 tons of frozen blueberries in 2020 season, meeting the initial projections.

The pandemic has greatly modified the scenario, both in the way of working, harvesting and packaging, where strict operating protocols were established, and in the markets. Nonetheless, Argentina managed to keep its production volume stable, around 18,000 tons, of which 11,000 were exported fresh, 3,500 frozen and 3,000 were destined to the domestic market. Federico Baya, President of the Argentine Blueberry Committee (ABC), explained that “challenges remain wide and varied: continue to consolidate the logistical change to maritime transport in order to reach the markets with more efficient costs and to be able to resist the sustained drop in prices; continue working on quality from the farm so that Argentine fruit continues to be recognized; and, from the social responsibility point of view, amplify the work carried out in the last 3 years with the PAR Project, and the development of the Social Compliance System for the prevention of child labor and the protection of adolescents”.

High demand, low prices

Baya said that Argentina has been very clear in the commercial strategy, which is focused on improving quality, and increasing the proportion of sea shipments and organic fruit. The distribution of exports was similar to previous years, allocating 65% to the U.S. and Canada, 30% to the European Union and United Kingdom, and 5% to Asia. “Demand was good, but prices have fallen again due to the additional volume pressure applied by Peru, which went from 105,000 to 140,000 tons in the Argentine window from August to December. We continue to work to increase supply of organic blueberries to differentiate ourselves”.

60% of sea shipments

The greatest impact of the pandemic was the reduction in the number of planes and flights, and therefore the increase of air fares, which forced the sector to send much of the fruits by sea transportation. “We knew that this was going to happen and that we had to have quality to increase maritime shipments. So, we managed to reach almost 60% of maritime shipments this year, when in the past we had never exceeded 30%”. In this sense, Baya stressed that the cost of transportation is really crucial in competitiveness. While the cost of air transport is around USD 2.50/kilo, sea transport has a cost of USD 0.50/kilo.

Ignacio Luparia, Director of Padwor Logistics S.A, an Argentine international logistics company with offices in Argentina, Peru, Chile and Uruguay, said “we highlight the preparation of many of the exporters for the maritime shipment of merchandise and the order and professionalism with which it was done. We also highlight the start of the season in early August, ending shipments in the first weeks of December, which considerably widened the loading window and avoided the famous bottlenecks or peaks in the provision of logistics services”. This season, Pawdor Logistics S.A. offered the monitoring of temperatures along the whole trip every 48/72 hours, giving visibility of its behavior to shipper/cnee, thus ensuring the provision of cold throughout the journey of the fruit to its destination. “We believe and trust that year after year the volumes of maritime shipments will increase considerably given the replacement of varieties suitable for maritime transits that many of the main producers are or have been carrying out in recent years”.

Ignacio Diaz Walker, Director of Interalmar, a company dedicated to providing international transport and logistics solutions, considered the Argentine blueberry season very positive since they have achieved a significant increase in their participation in the multimodal logistics market. “From a strictly logistical point of view, this campaign has been decisive in terms of adapting to the new regional scenario, and Argentina has shown that has done its job. Large exporters have already consolidated the change from air shipments to sea shipments, while smaller-scale exporters have managed with a lot of effort, to successfully adapt to this complex scheme”.

From Liventus S.A., a pioneer in controlled and modified atmosphere technologies in South America, explained that this season the quantity of exported containers increased, doubling the volume to the European continent and making the first air shipment to Asia, with good results. Regarding the next season, Consuelo Vallejos did not dare to make projections, but she anticipated that “there should be a small increase in volumes, mainly in the organic program, in which the main exporters have stood out this last season”.

Finally, Facundo Ramírez, Perishables Manager at Loginet S.A., highlighted the sector’s search for constant improvements in terms of technologies and the rapid adaptation and evolution they had to turn to maritime. “It is one of the few sectors that works as a team to be able to get ahead. We see that the sector is on the right track, seeking to open new markets and get out of the traditional way to reach places where other countries are not focused”. Loginet S.A. is a cargo agent with more than 25 years of experience in the perishable sector, linked to the Argentine blueberry sector for 10 years. Ramirez commented that although the technologies used is the containers have been the same for several years, tests are constantly being carried out on the percentages of gases to see possible improvements in the evolution of the fruit. In this sense “there are some thermographers that have GPS and allow an online report of the temperature, percentages of gases and the location of the container. This is very useful for possible claims or presenting insurance in any eventuality”.

Looking at 2021

ABC’s focus for next year is to continue working on the same lines of action: development of the internal and external markets with the campaigns “Better with Blueberries” and “Taste the Sweetness, Enjoy the Difference”, extend the test pilot that was made in 2020 of the Social Compliance System to more producers, and continue with the same enthusiasm in the more than 10 commissions that every day work for the improvement of the industry.

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Argentina gets ready for the 2020 blueberry season

Argentina gets ready for the 2020 blueberry season
© IDEP /// PRESS RELEASE

 

With productive zones implementing strict healthy and safety protocols and an industry working closer than ever towards common goals, the 2020 blueberry season kicks off in Argentina.

Argentina is one of the main players in the global market, exporting blueberries for over 20 years. Its geographical location gives it the advantage of having counter-season crop, which means it can supply during periods of low production in the countries of the Northern Hemisphere. This is why the main destinations are the U.S., which represents 60% of the total exports, followed by Continental Europe and U.K. with 30%, and Canada and Asia, that together account for 10% of the shipments. In recent years, Argentina’s exports have stagnated at around 15,000 tons, representing 10% of the total blueberry offer in the commercial window from August to December in 2019. This is why Argentina is seeking to position itself in the world’s blueberry industry as a niche player with comparative advantages and differentiation values. “We are committed to presenting a product with very high-quality standards that are reflected in the certifications of the good agricultural and social practices to which we subscribe” said Federico Bayá, president of the Argentine Blueberry Committee (ABC).

Federico Bayá, president of the Argentine Blueberry Committee (ABC) /// © ABC

 

The differentiation strategy is based in three pillars: taste, organic productions and responsible labor. For the fourth consecutive year, the Argentine blueberry sector is carrying out its “Taste the Sweetness & Enjoy the Difference” promotional campaign to emphasize the sweet acidified taste of the Argentinean fruit that, because it is produced in areas with “cold hours” has a distinctive flavor that differentiate it from the rest of the suppliers. An additional factor is the increasing trend of organic production, which this year will represent one third of the total produced volume.

Blueberry, a responsible crop

In an increasingly competitive world in which decent work is often not valued and the purchase is determined by the cost, Argentina has national labor, social and health and safety laws that are models worldwide. In 2015, Argentina subscribed to the Sustainable Development Goals established by the UN, amongst which Goal Number 8 is promoting sustainable economic growth with decent work and the prohibition and elimination of child labor as one of the main factors to be complied with. In addition to comply to these international guidelines and promote a production based on a triple impact, locally the ABC is part of the Enterprise Network against Child Labor and is governed by the Nacional Plan for the Prevention and Elimination of Child Labor and Protection of Adolescent Labor.

The ABC has developed a social strategy based on concrete actions in the three productive zones of the country. “As a productive sector, we are increasingly committed to the social issues that surround our cultivation, especially regarding Child and Adolescent Labor. There are a lot of myths around this topic and we want to generate the necessary debates to banish them” emphasized Bayá. “We have been working in a project for the past two years that implicated the elaboration of a protocol named Responsible Agricultural Production (P.A.R.) which will allow us to focus on 3 aspects: preventing, monitoring and attending child labor.”

Higher sea shipments to become more competitive

Given the lack of competitiveness that the Argentine blueberry is facing due to a an increasingly complex and more supplied global market, the sector has been able to make the effort in logistics to reduce costs. “We were used to a market that paid air freight to receive the fruit faster, but today, with an increasing number of players supplying the market constantly, we need to focus on a different way of transport”. This is a trend that has been going on during the past years, where the rate of sea shipments went from 2-3% in 2014 to 35% in 2019. In the middle of the pandemic, where there will be a lower frequency of commercial flights, it is projected that only 30% of the fruit will be exported by air freight.