A wealth of foreign investments in the Portuguese raspberry sector has led to impressive export growth over the last few years, but blueberries look set to catch up as an increasing amount of plantings go in the ground.
Speaking to PBUK at last week’s London Produce Show, a representative of trade promotion group Portugal Fresh said processed tomatoes were the country’s biggest horticultural export.
But in the fresh fruit category, berries are well ahead of the pack.
“Right now the berries are leading with around €117 million (£103 million), and after that we have oranges with €19 million (£105 million),” vice president and CEO Gonçalo Santos Andrade said.
“In Portugal at the moment raspberries represent more than 90% of the berry volume. This is because there have been a lot of investments since 2005 in the berry sector.
“In the last four of five years especially a lot of different foreign groups have installed themselves in Portugal and have made some partnerships with Portuguese companies.”
He highlighted while total horticultural exports had increased from €780 million (£689 million) in 2010 to €1.3 billion (£1.1 billion) last year – an annual growth rate of around 10% – the rise in berry volumes had been even stronger.
In 2015 the Iberian country exported €89 million of the summer fruit, but this figure jumped by a third in 2016.
While raspberries currently dominate the berry offering, Andrade was confident there would be some marked changes to supply dynamics in the medium-term.
“The demand right now for raspberries is good, but we will see a big increase in blueberries,” he said, pointing out blueberries took much longer than raspberries to come into production after planting.
“We have made a lot of raspberry plantings over the last 10 years and we made a lot of plantations of blueberries in the last three. So we will increase our blueberry exports and I believe we will make a balance of what we are exporting in the next three to five years.
“I believe berry production will increase a lot in Portugal – maybe we will maintain the €95-100 million of raspberries, but the trend will be to make a balance between raspberries and blueberries.”
Neighbouring Spain is Portugal’s leading horticultural export market, followed by France, the UK, the Netherlands and then Germany, but he also emphasised the importance of the Brazilian market.
“They speak the same language and there are a lot of people there. Historically we have had very good numbers with our Rocha pear exports to Brazil,” he said.
Having recently gained access to the Mexican market, the Portuguese pome fruit industry is also eager to test the waters there.
“We opened Mexico a few months ago, so for next season we will try to export some pears and apples and we will make a trade mission at the end of this month to Mexico.
“There are also new geographies [we are looking at]. We are not allowed to export fruit and vegetables to China, but we expect our government to open that market soon as there are a lot of opportunities there.”
The raspberry sector has its sights firmly set on China, having recently hosted a Chilean delegation to assist the industry in establishing a strategy to penetrate the market.
“Even for Rocher pears, kiwifruit and apples, there are a lot of opportunities. Right now we can only export to Hong Kong,” he said.