One of the most attractive features about Chile is agribusiness, and one of the leading up-and-coming export crops is blueberries. In fact, Chilean farmers have already been catching on to the opportunity. Chile produced 81% of all Southern Hemisphere blueberries in 2014, far ahead of Australia, New Zealand, Argentina and Uruguay. However, this production (near 100 million tons) is still relatively small compared to production in the Northern Hemisphere, which will soon exceed one-half a billion tons per year. Folks up there really like blueberries, and that means good business for people in Chile, where bountiful farmland and excellent growing climates abound.
According to this article, most (61%) Chilean production is in the 7th (Talca) and 8th (Los Ángeles, Chillán) regions, but there is significant production in other regions, too. The 5th, 6th, 9th and combined 10th and 14th regions all produce about 8% to 9% apiece. Production is by far greatest from December through early March, but there are some early varieties that produce from mid October to mid December and late varieties that produce from late March through April or even early May. Those varieties garner top export price in world markets, which has recently been around US$9.40 per kilo to the USA and US$16 per kilo to China. Europe is only around US$7 to US$8 per kilo. About 66% of Chilean blueberries are exported to the United States and Canada, 23% to Europe and 11% to Asia. Chile is the only country with direct export rights to China, according to this article.
Near Copiapó, blueberries are grown in sawdust-filled bags so that production can be attained during months when there is no blueberry production anywhere else in the world, with per kilo prices reaching US$50. Therefore, any farmer should have his eye on blueberries in Chile. While the fruit is not heartily demanded in Chile, it most certainly is in other parts of the world. And having the opposite growing season from the Northern Hemisphere means potentially high profits. Organic blueberries also command a premium, which is easier to fulfill in Chile since there are fewer pests to control.
Blueberries are a fruit that originated in North America and spread to other continents. The plants can be quite ornamental as well, with varying colors throughout the year. They have only been improved for commercial growing over the last half century, so advances in production are still being made. In North America, blueberries are mainly grown in Maine, New Jersey, Michigan, Georgia, British Columbia, Winnipeg and Manitoba. Holland, the United Kingdom, Germany, Poland and other parts of Eastern Europe provide the bulk of European production. There are also blueberries grown in Perú, Turkey, Iran, Japan and Korea. Blueberry bushes come in various species: rabbiteye (very tall, up to 20 feet high, and heat resistant), highbush (up to 4 meters and the most common plant used in Northern Hemisphere production), lowbush (around 1.5 to 2.5 meters tall) and half high (under 1 meter), the latter two species being the preferred choices for Chile, since spacing need only be 75 centimeters between bushes.
Blueberry plants live for 30 to 50 years, well cared for plants will literally produce fruit for half a lifetime. Before planting, put a bit (two large spoonfuls) of organic fertilizer in the hole, and after planting dump a liter of dry organic fertilizer on top (around the base of the plant) and then cover it with 3.5 inches (9 centimeters) of pine sawdust with an 18 inch (46 centimeter) radius around each plant. After that, install the drip irrigation system and cover the row with plastic. Put transparent netting up to keep birds out. The plants can survive with soils as acidic as pH 3.8, according to this article. The plants require about 4 to 7 centimeters of water per week.
There are literally dozens of varieties of blueberries to choose from, and what one chooses will depend on the hardiness zone (general, worldwide table here) in which he plants. Like the USA and Canada, Chile has many hardiness zones. Chilean climate information can be found at this link In Chile, the coastal 5th Region is in Zone 10, or possibly Zone 11, for instance, but the interior 5th Region, along with Santiago’s metropolitan area and the upper 6th Region are in Zones 8 or 9. Further south in Chile, the zone could be 6 or 7. One chooses a blueberry variety not only according to what time of year the crop comes in and how big the fruit is, but also on how many “chilling hours” the plant will experience each year in the respective zone. Some plants do well in warmer climates while others do well in colder climates.
Make sure to get the correct variety! You will have to do some careful research before planting, and it always pays to throw in a few plants of other varieties in your overall plantation to ensure cross-pollination. There are plenty of planting guides available online. Spend some time reading them. Spend considerable time reading the International Blueberry Organization’s webpage then read this one about Chilean production, and this one published in Perú. In Chile, birds are the blueberry farmer’s main enemy, so be prepared to use some transparent netting over the plants. Concrete, calcium, grass and lime are also blueberry production’s enemy, since the bushes love acidic soil with a pH between 4 and 5. The aforementioned items work against acidity.
Blueberry bushes also like the soil to be continually damp. Pine sawdust is a good, acidic cover material that helps keep the plants moist. The bottom line is if you are looking for some sort of agribusiness or even a household hobby when in Chile, blueberries should be something to consider. There are a number of brokers that will buy produce and export it for you. But that information is only available through our consulting services.
Be sure to become a member of Escape America Now and gain access to the monthly webinar. Details at www.esccapeamerianow.info. Visit AllAboutChile.com for discussion and forums about the country.
Dr. Cobin’s book, Life in Chile: A Former American’s Guide for Newcomers, is the most comprehensive treatise on Chilean life ever written, designed to help newcomers get settled in Chile. He covers almost every topic imaginable for immigrants. This knowledge is applied in his valet consulting service – Chile Consulting – where he guides expatriates through the process of finding a place to live and settle in Chile, helping them glide over the speed bumps that they would otherwise face in getting their visas, setting up businesses, buying real estate, investing in Chilean stocks or gold coins, etc. The cost is $49.
Dr. Cobin’s sequel book, Expatriates to Chile: Topics for Living, adds even further depth on important topics to expatriates who either live in Chile already or who have Chile on the short list of countries where they hope to immigrate. The book deals with crucial issues pertaining to urban and rural real estate transactions, natural disasters, issues pertaining to emigration and its urgency, money and the quality of life, medical care and insurance, business opportunities, social manifestations (including welfare state and divorce policy concerns), Chile in the freedom indices, social maladies (lying, cheating, stealing and murder), as well as discussion of a few places worth visiting and some further comments about Santiago.
Dr. Cobin’s next sequel, Living in Chile: Key Details of History, Culture, Politics and Places for the Serious Immigrant, goes into detail that mainly those people living in Chile already or serious immigrants will be interested in. It is also of special importance to libertarians that want to know something about the political and ideological undercurrents, past highlights (like having a free port much like Hong Kong or free banking), and people that want practical information and where they can retire on their budget. The travel section compliments the other books in the series so that those that read all three books can be sure to have covered the key places of the country from top to bottom.
This book is chock full of savory details that only a true immigrant and former American with many years of experience would know. Some things are only learned over long periods of time and observation. Take advantage of tapping into Dr. Cobin’s deep knowledge of the country and insights of importance to serious immigrants.
For a brief introduction consider Dr. Cobin’s abridged book (56 pages): Chile: A Primer for Expats ($19), offering highlights found in the two larger books.
Buy Dr. Cobin’s Public Policy books at Amazon.com:
Christian Theology of Public Policy: Highlighting the American Experience (2006) Bible and Government: Public Policy from a Christian Perspective (2003) A Primer on Modern Themes in Free Market Economics and Policy (2009)