Blueberry industry leaders from around the world gathered in Qujing City in southern China for their annual meeting at the 2017 International Blueberry Organisation Summit.
Delegates participated in a broad agenda of talks and roundtables, with topics such as technology, the practice of access to the Chinese market, global trends and industrial cooperation between China and the rest of the world.
“The IBO Summit has grown significantly since its inauguration a few years ago and this is the seventh edition, which is why it is important that Argentina continues to participate and be part of these meetings among the most important producers in the world,” said Carlos Stabile of the Argentine Blueberry Committee (ABC).
Stabile took part in a panel discussion along with the blueberry industry representatives from Chile, Australia and Canada plus the director of AQSIQ's Biosafety Division, Lou Junwen. This session was moderated by a well-known Shanghai fruit importer Kurt Huang.
During his presentation, the ABC representative detailed the status of negotiations to gain market access to China for Argentine blueberries.
“Argentina initiated negotiations on the import protocol in 2012. From that date until 2015 there was a fluid exchange of information between both governments, and at end of 2015 a team of AQSIQ inspectors we visited production in site in Argentina,” he said.
He went on to explain that a further exchange of information followed again until AQSIQ sent the proposed text for the import protocol in April 2016.
In May of that same year, Argentina - through SENASA - responded quickly, requesting the inclusion of methyl bromide as a quarantine treatment to allow them to export blueberries by air.
According to Stabile, since then the Argentine authorities had had no response from AQSIQ.
Stabile also noted that “there is a clear opportunity for both countries: on the one hand, China is projected to produce 100,000 tonnes over a period of four years, representing a sizeable growth in the domestic market.
“Considering that the production season in China runs from March to September, our offer would complement China’s, giving millions of consumers the chance to buy fresh blueberries from the end of the Chinese season to December, when Chile arrives on the market, closing the circle.”
He said blueberry producers in Argentina considered China to be “the great market of the future” and for this reason would continue to work towards opening up the market so that “the domestic industry continues to grow internationally”.
“The main beneficiary of the opening of the market for Argentine blueberries will be the Chinese consumer, as increasing supply will increase competition and that will ultimately translate into a higher quality product at a convenient price,” said Stabile, who also thanked the organisers for inviting Argentina to the summit.
Finally, the moderator of the panel asked Stabile about the competition between Argentina with Peru, which has already secured access to China.
Stabile responded by saying that “Argentine blueberries are characterised by being tastier and sweeter than Peruvian ones, which in turn has other characteristics and that would be a great benefit for the Chinese consumer who can choose between blueberries with great flavour and sweetness and others that are not so much”.