Peru’s explosion onto the global blueberry scene has taken its toll on regional suppliers, not least Uruguay, which has seen its industry undergo a high degree of consolidation since the start of the decade.
At Uruguay’s newest blueberry exporter, however, the prevailing headwinds have done little to dampen their enthusiasm for the sector.
Chapicuy-based Blue Forest was set up in 2016 by a family with a long history in the agricultural industry that was looking to diversify its offer and reach new markets. It has invested in 70ha of blueberry farms, which will produce its first commercial crop of approximately 300 tonnes this year. The principle varieties it grows are Emerald, Misty, Jewel and Star.
Héctor Juan Lagreca believes that in spite of the fierce competition from Peru, the company can carve out a niche for its berries based on differentiation and quality.
“Our focus is on supplying premium airflown product to customers in Europe and the US,” he says. “Provided Uruguay can differentiate its blueberries and convey their unique characteristics in terms of taste, sweetness and firmness I believe there is a place for us in the market.”
Indeed, Uruguay is well positioned to fill the early September to December window, ahead of Peru and Chile’s peak shipment period.
As a consequence of the recent challenges the industry has been overhauled, with new varieties, greater automation and better handling methods raising productivity and improving the country’s competitiveness on the world stage.
Lagreca remains optimistic about the future and believes Blue Forest’s blueberries have the quality to stand out, even in what is becoming an increasingly crowded market.
“This is a big year for us as we seek to establish ourselves on the market and lay the foundations for stable growth,” he says.