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Chile's blueberry exports grew to a record 49,800 tons in the 2009-10 shipping season, according to statistics provided by the Santiago, Chile- based Chilean Blueberry Committee.

This was an increase of 20 percent over the previous season and overwhelmed the 30,300 tons exported by Chile in 2007-08.

Chile began exporting blueberries in 2003-04, when it shipped 9,500 tons. There has been steadily rapid export growth since.

Over the last two complete seasons, the United States slightly declined in relative importance to Chilean blueberry exporters. In 2008-09, the United States received 84.1 percent of those exports. Last year the figure dropped to 81.8 percent. European buyers accounted for most of the difference, increasing their share of Chilean blueberry exports to 14.3 percent from 12.6 percent over the last two years.

Chilean Blueberry Committee numbers show that Chilean packer-exporters are helping to move their growing volume by packing in larger clamshells.

Chile produces on 31,000 acres of blueberries, with the largest production region being the central-south area, which accounts for 45 percent of the acreage. The long country has blueberry production spread over hundreds of miles, ranging from the north region to the south region.

The country’s acreage is expected to see little growth in the foreseeable future, although there is a large acreage of blueberries that has not yet come into production maturity.

The peak of Chile’s blueberry exports runs from mid-December until late February.