Berries prosper in three Argentinean regions

09/13/2013 02:00:00 PM
Tom Burfield

Courtesy Wish FarmsWish Farms, Plant City, Fla., grows blueberries in three regions of Argentina, including Tucuman.Argentina has three main blueberry growing regions, and each has its own production timeframe and geographic and climatic characteristics.

The Tucuman region in the northwestern part of the country has about 1,500 acres of blueberries, according to the Argentinean Blueberry Committee, and is the first area to produce blueberries each fall.

The Concordia region in the northeastern section has about 1,100 acres of blueberries and starts harvesting shortly after Tucuman, and then comes the Buenos Aires area south of Concordia, with 400 acres.

The majority of the blueberries from Buenos Aires goes for frozen or industrial use rather than fresh market, committee manager Ines Pelaez said.

Regionally, Argentina is ideal because the blueberry crop moves from one area to the next, said Mike Bowe, vice president at Dave’s Specialty Imports Inc., Coral Springs, Fla.

Tucuman, the smallest but most densely populated Argentinean province, is more likely to experience hot weather than the other areas, Pelaez said.

Jim Roberts, vice president of sales for Naturipe Farms LLC, Estero, Fla., described the Tucuman region as a valley surrounded by mountains.

The region can start producing blueberries as early as late July, he said.

In fact, Roberts said he visited the area in June and found ripe berries there already.

The region does not usually have harsh winters, though there were freezes there this year.

Tucuman has been the heart of Argentina’s blueberry export deal since around 2006, said Eduardo Campos, director of perishable logistics for Customized Brokers, a division of Miami-based Crowley Fresh.

Growers there get together to arrange for freight loading services and airline transportation on direct charter flights to Miami, he said.

They have built a new cooling facility at the airport that can hold enough product to fill two Boeing 767 aircraft, he said.

Growers from Concordia also ship from that airport, but Buenos Aires has its own airfield.

Concordia starts shipping blueberries seven to 10 days after Tucuman starts, Koukoulis said.

The region has more chill hours than Tucuman and grows different varieties, Bowe said

The area is susceptible to some frost, but more growers have frost protection there than in Tucuman.

He compared the climate of Tucuman to Florida, that of Concordia to Kentucky and that of Buenos Aires to Michigan.

Concordia is not as dry as Tucuman, Roberts said, adding that Naturipe starts importing berries from that region around Oct. 7.

The Buenos Aires region starts harvesting blueberries about 10 days after Concordia, Koukoulis said.

That region is the last blueberry growing area in Argentina to come on each year, and growers there often find themselves competing with the beginning of the Chilean deal, said Mike Parr, president of Team Produce International, Miami.

“As a result, a lot of the Buenos Aires growers are finding it not economical to continue their production areas,” he said, and they are pulling out of blueberry deal.



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