Chilean exporter ships first organic blueberries to China
February 25, 2015

A Chilean exporter has sent its first ever organic blueberry shipment to China having recently received certification, and hopes the huge Asian market will provide an alternative from the U.S. and its fumigation requirements.blues copia

The exporter Huertos Collipulli S.A is based in Chile’s southern IX (La Araucanía) region, and is a group of six separate producers.

The group’s commercial director Cristobal Duke told the idea to gain approval for organic shipments to China began a couple of years ago.

“While it was a product that already had a well-defined niche and clients who were willing to pay extra for an organic product, it also depended on one market – the U.S. – and that made it tremendously vulnerable to any issue,” Duke said.

“That suspicion was validated last year when the Lobesia botrana issue arose.

“A good amount of Chilean [organic] blueberries have found themselves without a market…because the only market that they had required the fruit to be fumigated, and by doing that you lose all the work that was put in before.”

Huertos Collipulli is no stranger to China. The company has already been shipping conventionally grown blueberries to the market, along with organic blueberries which were sold as conventional fruit.

“The truth is that for a couple of years now we have been including a portion of our organic fruit in the China-bound shipments. It was sold as conventional because we didn’t have the certification, and so we weren’t allowed to sell it as organic,” Duke said.

The commercial director added although the organic fruit had to be sold at a lower price than it would normally fetch, it did at least give the company a chance to see how organic blueberries handled such a long trip.

“We have seen that there is no restriction from a transit point-of-view for this fruit,” Duke said, adding the main variety exported by the company – also called Duke – travelled particularly well.

The first shipment of five pallets left for China via airfright on Jan. 18, and was due to be entering the market recently.

“It’s quite an arduous process because, apart from the certification, the process is very strict. In China, the consumer is very conscious of the topic of food safety due to the food security conditions in the country,” Duke said.

“When we offer products of this type, the people in charge of the certification are very careful to make sure that the product really has been grown in organic conditions.”

This season the company had hoped to ship across five containers of organic blueberries, but Duke said plans had to be changed as the whole process took a lot longer than expected.

“We received the certification a month and a half ago. The whole thing was pretty long, because you have to get the certification, then you ask for a labels for China, then they send them to you and then you have to put them on every container,” he said.

Much of the Chilean blueberry export season had already passed by the time the labels arrived, forcing the company to send the organic consignment via airfreight.

“We still have a little bit of organic fruit left, and if all goes well we would do another shipment closer to the Chinese New Year [on Feb. 19],” Duke said.

Duke also said that next season Huertos Collipulli would begin its organic blueberry program into China from day one.

“We hope to sent about eight containers. We have the capacity for that,” he said.

At present the company is not shipping organic blueberries to any other Asian markets, but this season it sent small quantities of conventional fruit to South Korea.