The blueberry industry in Argentina has been evolving and adapting to the new world stage. The entry of new actors and the increase in supply have led the industry to rethink its strategies and approaches, as well as the union of competitors from different backgrounds to promote their consumption. For this reason, in this edition of the IBO interview, we deepen these issues and the challenges of the Argentine blueberry industry with Federico Baya, president of the Argentinean Blueberry Committee (ABC).
Federico Baya comments that Argentina is converting, and within that strategy its focus is to seek to open markets in response to the new characteristics of consumption, focused on an informed consumer and concerned about the origin of the product, the way in which it is harvested and marketed, Aware of the social and environmental impact, produced in a sustainable way.
"We are convinced that the Argentine blueberry is a product that meets several requirements that would allow it to adapt to these opportunities. We are looking for markets that are not so traditional and with great potential where we can position ourselves as a niche player, we will not focus on winning markets by volume , but in quality, aiming at the development of markets that value organic fruit and with greater flavor ".
He also adds that "we are committed to presenting a gondola product with good caliber and excellent condition, with very high quality standards that are reflected in the certifications of good agricultural and social practices to which we subscribe."
This is how Argentina has recently opened markets such as China, Thailand, Iceland, Israel, Lithuania, and are in negotiations to reopen the markets of Japan, India, Vietnam, Taiwan, among others.
"The key to the new openings and reopening is due in large part to the good joint work between the private sector and the public, especially with the Ministry of Agribusiness and SENASA. The sector carries out the promotion and positioning campaign for the third consecutive year " Taste the Sweetness & Enjoy the Difference ” that emphasizes the taste of the fruit produced in Argentina," says Baya.
The president of ABC also explains that the fruit sector, especially blueberries, has great potential in Argentina and in the world.
"The national producers have been making a great effort and investment in the varietal replacement, with a tendency to early varieties, and high density schemes, improvement in logistics that has good availability of flights to all direct markets from Tucuman or from Ezeiza (Buenos Aires) and a sustained growth of maritime shipments (either through the port of Buenos Aires and via Chile), managing to extend the commercial window, capacity and growth of organic production, high investment in post harvest and automation. They also continue to invest in crop protection systems, such as frost controls, anti-hail meshes or tunnels that protect from rains. "
Regarding its second campaign in the Chinese market, Baya says that they are looking for greater participation by taking advantage of the interest in Argentine fruit due to its sweeter taste.
"We estimate that it will represent between 3 and 4% of the country's blueberry exports. The first shipments will begin in mid-September."
Likewise, Argentina has had to compete with a strong and growing producer such as Peru. In this regard, Baya points out that "Argentina, after the strong irruption of volumes from Peru that grows year after year and occupies the same commercial window, has focused its commercial and promotional strategy with a strong emphasis on quality and flavor. The volumes that Peru currently manages have influenced us to modify the conditions of its own commercial window. The increase in supply has caused prices to obviously fall and therefore, today, the tendency is to go more by boat, just to save that value of freight. We are in a learning curve, because not all implanted varieties have the ability to travel by sea. "
During the 2018 campaign, Argentina exported 15,280 tons of fresh blueberries, volume within the average of the last 5 years. The novelty has been the growth of sea shipments, which was 30% of the total, a historical record says Baya.
"An enormous effort has been made to modify the logistics matrix and thus, be a reliable source in the supply, with greater programming. Our goal is to position the Argentine blueberry by the attribute of flavor that distinguishes it from the rest of the suppliers. The trend shows that blueberry consumption continues to grow year after year and in some countries at a rate above the general average of other fruits. The consumer is increasingly looking for a quality product and produced under high standards of good agricultural practices and decent social conditions. Argentina is on that path. One of ABC's strategic objectives is to develop and implement a national social strategy. "
In commercial terms, campaign expectations indicate that the volume to all markets would be similar to last year but contemplating the opening of the Chinese market, which will diversify demand a bit. The estimated total should be around 15,000 tons, says Federico.
The importance of an organized industry with a common focus
The Committee is a non-profit organization that brings together 80% of blueberry exporters in Argentina. As of 2012, and with the objective of integrating the entire industry chain, APAMA (Argentine Northeast Regional Association), APRATUC (Argentine Northwest Regional Association) and CAPAB (Regional Association of the Northwest Regional Association) join ABC. Buenos Aires province)
"The Committee is currently addressing issues of high importance for the sector such as the positioning of Argentina as a supplier of blueberries against the season abroad, the delivery of reliable and accurate information on exports of blueberries from Argentina to the different markets, relations with the different public organizations, international entities, civil society organizations, trade union organization (workers' representative), among other actors ".
Baya comments that the subscription to the Committee is voluntary and its spirit is to add the largest number of companies in the sector so that all together work towards the industry.
"Being a Civil Association, all its members have voice and vote and we advocate that they actively participate in the activities of the organization. There are many achievements that have been achieved since ABC during its years of management, but new challenges always arise and more issues and things to do. That's why we are constantly looking for new members who want to join and give their added value to the sector."
In addition, the industry representative points out that many efforts have been made and many resources have been invested in political management with the different strata of the Government, whether national, provincial and at the municipal level.
"An excellent relationship has been achieved with the different Ministries (Agribusiness, Production, Labor, Transportation, etc.), with SENASA, with the Embassies of our main markets, with Business Chambers, among other key actors, and with all of them working to daily on different issues For a few years now, our work methodology is based on internal commissions formed by the partners themselves.The objective is to be able to cover more in-depth topics.One of the commissions are: customs & logistics, statistics, external promotion, promotion of internal market, SENASA, etc. "
Likewise, recently the Argentinean Blueberry Committe (ABC) has been linked to organizations representing other fruit products such as: Argentine Chamber of Integrated Fruit Growers (Pears and Apples, CAFI), Argentine Citrus Federation (Lemons and sweet citrus, FEDERCITRUS) and the Argentine Chamber of Producers of Integrated Cherries (Cherries, CAPSI), in the group called "Frutas de Argentina", to position the fruit supply in the different markets of the world.
The fruits in Argentina is the sector of the national economy that generates more than 176,000 jobs; It has productions in more than 10 regional economies; It exports Argentine added value to more than 70 countries and generates more than US $ 1446 million foreign currency for the country and US $ 650 million of turnover in the domestic market.
Regarding this last point, Baya points out that for the third consecutive year the consumption of blueberries in the local market continues to be promoted through the “Better with Blueberries” campaign whose aim is to position the Argentine blueberry as an alternative of mass consumption, promoting the consumption of Fresh fruit, seeking to make it known as a natural and healthy alternative to the intake of snacks, sweets, snacks, desserts, etc.
"Of the 21,000,000 kilos produced in 2018, 77% went to fresh exports, 14% to the frozen industry, and 9% to the domestic market. Every year we see how consumption in the Argentine market it grows and we are convinced that it is possible thanks to the promotional efforts we make as a private sector in concomitance with the public sector. A good example is the “Better with Blueberries” campaign. "
Social commitment - National strategy
One of the strategic axes on which ABC is working is to position the blueberry as a responsible crop. Argentina is a country that has national laws on labor, social and health and safety material with standards that are a worldwide model. Within that framework, from the ABC a social strategy was developed based on concrete actions in the 3 productive zones of the country.
"As a productive sector we are increasingly committed to the social issues that surround our cultivation, and among the actions that are within our reach we focus on prevention and dissemination at national level of information related to occupational quality, to working ages allowed, etc., especially in schools and child care centers In this sense, companies have already ratified their commitment to be central actors in this task We are proud to be able to tell you that this year we opened the second child care center in Tucumán so that the parents who work in the harvest have a safe place to leave their children. This is one of the services offered by the sector that works together with other national and provincial actors, "says Baya.