Mike HornickPanelists Victor Moller (from left), chairman of Santiago, Chile-based Hortifrut S.A.; Mark Hurst, president of Sheridan, Ore.-based Hurst's Berry Farm; and Aneberries A.C. president Mario Steta discuss Mexican berry production Sept. 30 at the first Aneberries congress in Guadalajara, Mexico.GUADALAJARA, Mexico — The first congress of Aneberries A.C. — Mexico’s recently formed National Association of Berries Exporters — opened with good news for Mexican blackberry grower-shippers.
U.S. sales of blackberries were up 28.9% in volume and 18.3% in dollars this year over last year, University of California-Davis agricultural economist Roberta Cook told about 350 attendees Sept. 29.
Nearly all of that was accounted for by Mexican exporters.
The blackberry example is one other producers and government officials in the state of Jalisco hope to see emulated.
“Mexico has created a new consumption sector in the U.S.,” Cook said, in Spanish. “Costco saw they could buy consistent quality blackberries. A seasonal fruit became something more.”
“We are the blackberry in the U.S.,” said Mario Steta, president of Aneberries. “We can keep on that same track. (But) look at blueberries. We’re down there and have everything to win. The message here is there is a lot to do.”
Chile and Argentina still far outstrip Mexico on blueberry exports to the U.S.
Jalisco Rural Development Secretary Alvaro Garcia Chavez opened the congress with a pledge of support to the industry.
The government stands ready to support dam projects, food safety labs and other measures to expand the number of hectares in production and ease the path of commodities into export markets, he said.
“We can offer you something that everyone’s asking for — security,” he said, referring to crime in other parts of Mexico.
Cook laid out the challenges that buyer consolidation, private labels and other trends in U.S. retail pose for producers here.
“You have to be big as a shipper to be able to supply their needs,” she said. “They have fewer suppliers and expect more from them. You need to be big or otherwise you are distributing more in wholesale channels or through brokers, and those are not the best quality buyers.”