El Niño caused struggles for blueberry growers in Olmos, Peru

From Fresh Fruit Portal | 18 June 2024

Overview of blueberries from Peru in the U.S. market, complemented by charts from Agronometrics. Original published on June 18, 2024.

Peru’s conditions are optimal for agro-exports due to its favorable climate and the advanced agricultural techniques of Peruvian professionals. However, according to Pablo Ferreyros, it is crucial not to become complacent with grapes, avocados, and blueberries – the three crops they work with at the company he directs, Ingleby Farms Peru-Plantaciones del Sol.

Regarding grapes, he said that the recent varietal change in Peru could mean an increase in production in the coming years. He suggested that avocado production will exceed demand over the next five years and noted that there was a decrease in blueberry production, particularly in traditional varieties such as Biloxi or Ventura, during the 2023/2024 season due to the El Niño phenomenon.

blueberry volumes by his 3

Source: USDA Market News via Agronometrics.
(Agronometrics users can view this chart with live updates here)

Ingleby Farms is headquartered in Denmark but is a transnational company operating in nine countries. Its production in Peru is mainly concentrated in two northern valleys, Motupe and Olmos, where it works with grapes, blueberries, and avocados. Pablo Ferreyros is the director of Ingleby Farms Perú-Plantaciones del Sol, we spoke with him about the three crops they work on.

For Pablo, the main products in Peru (grapes, blueberries, and avocado), will experience an increase in production volumes in the coming years. 

“In the case of grapes, the situation is stable, but I estimate that in reality, this is not so much the case. The hectareage has increased slightly by 7% in the last four years. However, the recent varietal changes may suggest a significant increase in production in the coming years. The new varieties planted are entering their maturity stage and have yields that are up to 35% higher. Currently, we have 22,000 hectares in Peru, 75% planted with new varieties and 25% with traditional varieties. This replacement will continue and consequently, the supply will increase,” he said.

The advantage, according to Ferreyros, is that Peru has an excellent climate and specialized technicians to produce grapes with high yields, low unit cost, and very high quality, which competes well with grapes from other countries such as the United States and Chile.

Ferreyros focuses on quality: “The strategy that we must follow this year and the following years, due to the production expected, has to do with producing quality fruit. Growers must make an effort to carry out practices that will lead us to have the highest quality in the market to differentiate ourselves. How? With the proper management of biostimulants, for example, choosing the right number of bunches per plant (even at the expense of yield), among other actions. This will be the key to success and will ensure permanence in the business for the coming years.”

He added that at Ingleby, they have had a regular campaign due to the rains in 2023. “We worked a lot on improving the soil with organic matter and microorganisms. The plants have recovered and the loaders are in optimal condition, we expect a very good production during the 2024-25 campaign. We have planted the entire area with new varieties such as Sweet Globe and Jack Salute. We are always on the lookout for advances in genetics.”

Avocados and blueberries don’t lower their guard

Regarding avocados, Ferreyros warned that the crop is becoming ‘commoditized’.

“There are not only large producers. As it is a crop of easy entry, also small and medium farmers have planted recently. Production is going to continue to increase over the next 5 years at a higher rate than demand,” he said. “With more production and a larger number of producers, the challenge for exporters is to differentiate themselves. For example, complying with international certifications, shipping fruit with low levels of heavy metals, lower number and levels of pesticide molecules, low pesticide residues, adequate dry matter, etc.”

Ferreyros assures exporters will be able to enter the most important marketing programs destination markets and, therefore, obtain more stable and better prices.

“In Peru, we are working with ProHass to differentiate producers who comply with optimal growing and processing conditions, so that their efforts will be recognized in the global market. We are also aware that productions must be above 25 tons to counteract potential low prices due to high production,” he said. 

Plantaciones del Sol usually has good avocado production and quality, with the exception of the current season, which, due to the excessive heat that Peru experienced as a result of the El Niño phenomenon, produced fewer and smaller fruits.

However, he assured that the plants have already recovered and are in optimal condition. “This 2025, we hope to return to normal productions, with good caliber and quality.”

Asked about how Ingleby Farm’s blueberries are doing in Olmos, Ferreyros said that this year was hard for Olmos blueberry growers, with productions 30% to 40% lower, due to high temperatures, a consequence of the El Niño phenomenon, especially in fields where traditional varieties such as Biloxi or Ventura.

However, plants have recovered and they are promoting an aggressive program of trials with new varieties, and they expect to see the results this year.

Referring to the advantages of the new genetics, Pablo says they are impressive with higher harvest efficiency due to fruit concentration and higher berry weight. He says they offer 50% more production per hectare, resistance to climate change, and better quality for more demanding markets.

He concluded by highlighting the importance of caring for a production model based on sustainability: “Ingleby’s vision is to care for the environment of its estates for the next 150 years; caring for the land and its microbiome, the water, the community, working with nature and using the most modern agricultural technology.”

The News in Charts is a collection of stories from the industry complemented by charts from Agronometrics to help better tell their story.

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