Outgoing president Felipe Silva replaced by interim appointment Ruy Barbosa

Ruy Barbosa or Northbay Chile has been appointed as the interim president of the Chilean Blueberry Committee following the departure of Felipe Silva last month. He will hold the position until a new president and board of directors is elected once the current season has concluded.

Ruy Barbosa Chilean Blueberry Committee

Ruy Barbosa

Silva said his decision to leave was based on the need to dedicate more time to personal matters. “We want to thank Felipe Silva for his dedication, time and affection that he gave to the industry in his capacity as president of the Committee during the last four years,” the committee said in a statement.

It also welcomed Barbosa and his “willingness to accept the position and work for the development of our industry.”

Barbosa takes the helm of the committee at a crucial time for the Chilean industry, which has struggled to adapt to the rise in global competition. The committee’s executive director, Andres Armstrong said varietal replacement, along with proper agricultural management and productive and logistical efficiency are crucial to compete in today’s market.

“It is not just about having good quality fruit – if we are not efficient it will be difficult to continue participating in the market,” Armstrong said.

“We need to produce more kilos per hectare at lower costs, and export as much of this as possible. Of course, genetics play a key role, for example in developing varieties with lower water requirements, or resilience to extreme climatic events, such as heatwaves.”

The committee has generated consensus among growers on leaving some varieties out of the supply of fresh blueberries for export due to their poor results at destination. This process has meant a decrease in Chile’s export volume, which fell from a peak of 117,000 tonnes in 2020/21 to 87,000 tonnes last season. Leaving varieties out along with the incorporation of new genetics has meant a gradual but consistent improvement of the varietal mix exported from Chile.

Additionally, the CBC has decided to implement a variety validation programme to give growers reliable, independent and public information on the behaviour of new varieties in the different parts the country, thereby reducing the risks associated with incorporating new genetics developed outside of Chile.

Forecast for the 2023/24 point to an export crop of 76,500 tonnes of fresh blueberries, a decrease of 13 per cent on last season.