We received instructions to investigate the exact circumstances of production, packing and transport of consignments of blueberries in order to minimize the risk of damages upon arrival, as blueberries are a challenging commodity for insurance companies due to its high value and sensitiveness to delays, temperatures and other issues.
Blueberry production in Peru is centralized in the La Libertad region on the north coast, and is expected to grow rapidly in the coming years due to the ‘Chavimochic Special Project’, which is an irrigation system that extends throughout much of the coast of the La Libertad Region.
Chavimochic is an acronym formed by the first syllables of the names of the four valleys that cross the Madre Canal of the project : Chao, Viru, Moche and Chicama.
This project that started about 30 years ago was vital for the development of the state of La Libertad, especially the production of asparagus, avocados and sugar-cane. In 2014 preliminary work started to add a further 63 thousand hectares and improve irrigation in 48 thousand more. The objective is also to construct dams and water basins to store water temporarily. It is for this reason that the production of blueberries is expanding in such a rapid manner, as more land is available due to the irrigation project. As blueberries grow best in acid soils, each farm has a system of filtration and irrigation, monitoring and adjusting fertilisers via the irrigation system.
Blueberries now are one of Peru’s most valuable fresh fruit export, an impressive leap from virtually nothing, less than 10 years ago.
Harvest is done manually, with several workers selecting the ripe berries and carefully removing them from the plant and placing them in trays. The trays are regularly picked up by small vans and taken to precooling rooms, where they get a quality check and are placed onto pallets. The pallets are taken to the cold storage, where the pulp temperature of the fruit is decreased to around + 5.0°C in 35 to 45 minutes.
That same day, the berries are picked up by refrigerated trucks and taken to the packing stations, where they are sorted on size and quality and are packed for transport, according to the customer’s wishes. The cargo is palletized and cooled again to a temperature around 0.0°C - +1.0°C, after which they are stored in the warehouse at approx. -1.0°C. Within a period of 24 hours, the harvested fruit is cooled down, packed and ready to be loaded in refrigerated containers.
Findings / recommendations
Each step, from production through harvest until logistics was closely monitored, checked and documented. Our investigations revealed that for fresh blueberries to arrive in a good condition at destination, an advanced, detailed and professional way of cultivation, harvest, packing and logistics is necessary.
A selection of possible issues: improper handling operations in the field, lack of quality control, failure of traceability, non-compliance with cooling-down process, missing temperature recorders, etc.
Although auditing is not that common in the fresh fruit industry so far, many insurance companies and broker nowadays see the benefit of this type of loss prevention.