Peruvian blueberries promote sustainability in their crops

The growing demand for sustainability, the requirements of important markets, the scarcity and price of production factors, plus the attractive price of organic products, are part of the reasons that promote sustainability in the industry.

For the Proarándanos union and the Peruvian blueberry producers, sustainability has become one of their main objectives, including this topic in the different competitiveness and growth strategies of the industry. 

Peruvian blueberry boom

It wasn't until the second half of the 2000's that blueberries started as an experiment in Peru. La Libertad was the region chosen to test the first low chill varieties that arrived in the country. 

Peru had a completely different geography and climate than the one traditionally needed by the North American crop: nutritious soil, humid climate and required cold hours. In Peru, genetic development together with investment in irrigation projects allowed blueberries to grow among the sand of its coastal dunes.

After years of development, the signing of free trade agreements and the organization of the union, Peru became the largest exporter of blueberries in the world after almost a decade after its start in the sector. According to Proarándanos estimates, during the 2022/2023 campaign, 285.000 tons of blueberries will be exported, which means an increase of 28% compared to the previous season. 

The main destinations for Peruvian blueberries are the United States, the Netherlands and China. In the latter market, he sees great potential, with a rapid increase in the share of his product in the last three years. In this sense, the work carried out by Proarándanos to continue promoting blueberries in current markets stands out, while looking for new ones where to expand exports of the berry nicknamed "the blue gold" of Peru.

use of resources

The boom in the blueberry industry in Peru has led its leaders to question its consequences, with special focus on the use of water and chemical products. 

The price of fertilizers plus the phytosanitary requirements of some markets have pushed Peruvian producers to start organic crops. Compared to some of its competitors, organic blueberry cultivation in Peru continues to have a low share of the industry, becoming a niche with growing numbers of interested parties. According to the latest figures, 11% of Peruvian blueberries are organic. 

In order to minimize the application of pesticides and improve their efficiency, the use of drones has been studied given the precision with which they can spray plants.

Other strategies focus on reducing pesticide applications using different software or applications. These technologies have been developed by companies such as Farm Monitor, a digital platform that allows the monitoring of pests in blueberry crops. The application georeferences and identifies pests, informs if there are biological controllers in the affected area, if they are sufficient to control outbreaks, and recommends the release of biological or chemical agents to eliminate them.

Farm Monitor was created in Chile, a country that has a long-standing industry in the production of organic blueberries, by experienced specialists who found in this technology an opportunity to promote ecological and economic sustainability. The use of the application facilitates the recording of pest monitoring data through a mobile application, which allows saving time and having the relevant information in a timely manner for decision-making in real time, reducing operational and maintenance costs. production. Within the information that it delivers, it allows, for example, to see all the pests together or separately and to see two consecutive simultaneous monitoring, which allows to easily evaluate the effectiveness of any measure taken to control each pest.

One of its founders, Eduardo López Laport, tells us about an alliance that he recently created with Blueberries Consulting, the most important web platform specialized in the blueberry industry, "we saw a concrete commitment to promote innovation and contribute from our specialty, so we are very happy with this new step"

The climate in the different producing areas of Peru normally causes a greater presence of pests, so the development of this type of technology is key to improve competitiveness and to meet the requirements demanded by international markets. 

Other research indicates that fertigation may be a way to make crops more sustainable. However, the sandy soils of Peru, where organic matter is not abundant, makes it more difficult to advance this option to promote organic farming.

Peru also faces an increasingly common challenge in the different industries of the world, the use of water.

Most of the blueberry plantations in Peru are located in the country's coastal pampas, where, thanks to the country's hydric structure, water comes from the mountains and the pre-Amazonian zone. However, producers are concerned about the efficiency in the transfer of water, which is why they encourage investment in innovative technologies, such as desalination plants, or traditional ones, such as the construction of more reservoirs.

For now, practices such as the cultivation of blueberries without soil are extended to minimize the use of water and make it more efficient; potted blueberries consume half the water of a regular planting. Other areas use technologies such as probes to measure usage and rationalize.

Companies that demonstrate continuous efforts in water conservation obtain the "blue certificate" from the National Water Authority (ANA), a recognition of the responsible use of water for their brand.

They are responses to a new trend that will mark the future in the short term, for which the Peruvian union is already preparing. 

By Catalina Pérez Ruiz - Blueberries Consulting

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