Soft fruit superpowers: How did Peru and Mexico boost berry production hundreds of times over in just 10 years?

(Credit: Unsplash)

This article is brought to you thanks to the collaboration of The European Sting with the World Economic Forum.

Author: Douglas Broom, Senior Writer, Formative Content

  • Peru’s blueberry exports and production have surged in the past decade, and it is now the world’s biggest exporter of the fruit.
  • At the same time, Mexico has seen a 128-fold surge in raspberry production, making it the second-largest exporter.
  • What led these two Latin American countries to become soft fruit superpowers?

Carlos Gereda didn’t know what he was starting when he brought some blueberries home to Peru from Chile in 2006.

He wanted to know if they would grow in his native soil – he had no idea that his simple experiment would help turn Peru into the world’s leading blueberry exporter.

This all happened in little more than a decade – at the same time as Mexico was shooting up the raspberry export rankings to rival the market leader, Russia. A combination of climate and canny entrepreneurs have powered the Latin American nations to berry stardom.

Their sharp rises in fruit production could provide lessons for others amid increasing fears about food security following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. The World Economic Forum’s September 2022 Chief Economists Outlook warns that food prices will continue to rise in the coming years.


What is the World Economic Forum doing to help ensure global food security?

Two billion people in the world currently suffer from malnutrition and according to some estimates, we need 60% more food to feed the global population by 2050. Yet the agricultural sector is ill-equipped to meet this demand: 700 million of its workers currently live in poverty, and it is already responsible for 70% of the world’s water consumption and 30% of global greenhouse gas emissions.

New technologies could help our food systems become more sustainable and efficient, but unfortunately the agricultural sector has fallen behind other sectors in terms of technology adoption.

Launched in 2018, the Forum’s Innovation with a Purpose Platform is a large-scale partnership that facilitates the adoption of new technologies and other innovations to transform the way we produce, distribute and consume our food.

With research, increasing investments in new agriculture technologies and the integration of local and regional initiatives aimed at enhancing food security, the platform is working with over 50 partner institutions and 1,000 leaders around the world to leverage emerging technologies to make our food systems more sustainable, inclusive and efficient.

Learn more about Innovation with a Purpose’s impact and contact us to see how you can get involved.

The report adds that investment in new food sources will be essential to secure future supplies

Peru’s blueberry boom

Peru’s blueberry production and exports surge was supported by investment from some of the country’s leading fruit processors.

Gereda imported 14 varieties of blueberry plants from Chile and found four flourished. This increased production from just 30 tonnes in 2010 to more than 180,000 tonnes a year, making Peru the world’s second-biggest producer after the United States. Blueberries are now a $1 billion per year business in Peru

Blueberries are big business globally. Analysts Index Box says the blueberry market was worth $8.3 billion in 2021 and will grow “significantly” for the rest of the decade, with demand exceeding 2 million tonnes annually by 2030.

Gereda’s hunch that the Peruvian climate would suit blueberries has paid off, partly thanks to the country’s favourable climate. But climate change has also affected Mexico’s rise as a berry superpower.

Mexico’s raspberry rise

Experts predict Mexico may overtake Russia as the leading exporter of raspberries, with exports in January-March 2022 up by 22.5% from a year earlier. Climate change means Mexican farmers can also harvest in winter when prices are highest.

Overall, Mexico’s raspberry output has got 128 times larger in just 20 years, rising from just 6 tonnes in 1986 to over 146,000 tonnes in 2020, helped by the changing climate that allows farmers to grow blueberries in autumn, winter and spring.

Mexico also produces 10% of the world’s strawberries and is the third-largest strawberry grower. Output in 1961 was around 25,000 tonnes, but by 2020 the country was producing 558,000 tonnes.

Overall berry exports are worth $3 billion a year to Mexico, making berries the country’s third most valuable food export after beer and avocados – even exceeding tequila and mezcal combined.

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