This year it’s a different picture. That’s what importers of blueberries are saying about Chile’s blueberry season.
“Supply is good right now. Production has increased in Chile finally and growers in Central region are going through their peak at the moment. The market is carrying great momentum after a successful Argentinean and Peruvian season,” says Luciano Fiszman of Redondo Beach, Ca.-based Gourmet Trading Co. “I am very enthusiastic about this Chilean season, especially after last very difficult season.”
Photo: Gourmet Trading Co.
The year before, Chile started much earlier than usual adding further complications to an already delayed crop from Argentina. “And the market that wasn’t prepared to move the volume,” says Fiszman. “There was no balance between offer and demand last season. Supply this season feels better coordinated and timely. Everyone learned a lesson last season.”
“This week we’re seeing increasing blueberry arrivals by boat containers as we are about to start the peak volume period for the production from the central south zone of Chile,” says Mario Flores of Salinas, Ca.-based Naturipe Farms LLC. “This will be a peak period of three to four weeks with good availability and good quality expectations.”
In addition to conventional blueberries, Flores adds, “With demand for organics on the rise, Naturipe will have promotable volumes of Chilean organic blueberries this harvest.”
While the majority of blueberries coming into the U.S. are from Chile, some smaller volume is coming in from both Peru and Mexico. “There is still some fruit from Peru arriving but overall volumes from there are declining as the industry peak was back in October and November,” says Flores. “Mexico continues with minor volumes but this will change as we get into spring harvest in late February and March.”
Not surprisingly, given the amount of fruit, prices are lower than a few weeks ago. “However compared to last season, prices this year have been higher for Chilean fruit than the market has seen in 2016-2017 in a weekly basis,” says Fiszman. “This can be attributed to a more balanced offer-demand and particularly better planning upfront, along with the great momentum the market is carrying for a couple of months now.”This market is indeed moving in more orderly patterns adds Flores since this season’s production/arrival curve is more in line with the past. “Compared to last year, we have much better market conditions. Last year’s concentrated peak arrived at the worst time for promoting blueberry volumes, causing a depressed market in early January,” he says.
Looking ahead, Fiszman anticipates that the market should thin out in the next few weeks and by early market, should rebound again. “It will depend on what volume by week finally gets to the market and if quality remains not being an issue in the industry,” says Fiszman. Quality of course helps push the direction of movement. “If you have good quality, everything becomes simpler. We have good quality right now but the south of Chile is experiencing some weather and I have reservations if that could translate into condition issues when the product arrives to market later in the season.”