Uruguay will receive the go-ahead for exports of fresh blueberries to China within days, according to official sources. The re-opening of the market for Uruguayan citrus, banned since 2012, is also imminent.
Marta Bentancur of the Union of Fruit Growers and Exporters of Uruguay (Upefruy) said the official signing of the import protocol for both products is due to take place by the end of this month.
“The signature of both protocols, for blueberries and citrus, is expected for 29 July,” Bentancur told Fruitnet. “Companies and officials are in the process of preparing all the information required by the Chinese authorities.”
Uruguay is well positioned to fill the lucrative early season September/October blueberry window in China before Peru gets into full swing – a gap that Argentina is also looking to supply.
The country’s production base has undergone a high degree of consolidation in recent years and today supply is in the hands of just a few companies. The result, said Bentancur, is an industry well positioned to meet the challenges of the future.
“New varieties, greater automation and better handling methods have increased efficiency and raised productivity, making us more competitive on the world stage,” she said.
Exporters are set to renew their focus on new markets this year after being forced to put their expansion plans on hold in 2015 due to a 19 per cent contraction in volumes caused by El Niño-related weather issues.
According to Diego Castagnasso of Azul Sereno, the 2016 season is progressing smoothly with no major weather-related issues.
“The cool autumn has ensured that we have accumulated a sufficient amount of cold hours and the outlook is positive,” he said. “At this stage it’s too early to give concrete forecasts but production should be higher than last year and given the benign climate, the quality of the crop looks to be good.”
Meanwhile, Uruguay has made no secret of its desire to seek alternative markets for its citrus after losing share in the European market last year due to problems with citrus black spot. As well as seeking the reopening of the Chinese market, which closed to Uruguayan citrus in 2012, the government is in discussions with Mexico, India, the Philippines and Indonesia.
Citrus accounts for 80 per cent of Uruguay's fruit exports, which last year reached 100,000 tonnes with a corresponding value of around US$90m.
While Uruguay’s orange acreage has fallen over the past three years there has been a rise in new plantings of seedless mandarin varieties such as Murcott, Tango, Orr and Orri which are popular with Asian consumers.
Volumes are projected to grow sharply in the coming decade. This forms part of a wide reaching programme designated Position 2030, whose aim is to secure Uruguay’s export future through varietal development, innovation and the opening of new export markets.