Blueberries light as supply switches to imports

Supplies of blueberries have been on the tighter side as some of the domestic seasons wind down crops and the import season kicks off.

“Supply has been short for the last two weeks, but especially short on new crop fruit. Oregon has another one to two weeks left to go and perhaps Michigan a bit longer,” says Jerald Downs of Hollister, Ca.-based Berry People LLC. “Hotter mid-summer weather has limited storage volumes due to softness and increased potential for decay. This makes good domestic fruit hard to come by for mid-September.”

Overall, he notes a slight shift in the import/domestic balance of berries. “We’re seeing a bit more scarcity this week and expect some important market price increases the last three weeks of September,” he says.
Imports have started
However, that import deal has begun with South America already shipping berries. “It’s begun in a light way, and we are even seeing first harvest in Northern/Coastal Chile this week, with our first arrivals next week,” says Downs. Those volumes should pick up by the end of the month.

“Peru is a formidable competitor this time of the year in terms of a substantial volume of new crop fruit,” says Downs. “Customers want a trustworthy supply and I think Peru can deliver.”

As far as imports go, Downs notes that Chile and Peru will be the primary supply source for October through December. “Mexico can produce a very competitive Q4 offer as well, but so far, much of the investment and focus there has been towards spring production, where the growing conditions naturally bring out the best productivity,” he says. “Also, certain regions of Northern/Coastal Chile are also viable competitors in terms of timing, quality and overall go-to-market ‘know-how.’”

Less demand for now
Meanwhile demand is lightening up slightly given the higher prices of fruit at this time of year, though Downs notes there are larger volume requests coming out of Canada. “Pricing is around 40 percent or so higher for new crop fruit out of Chile versus old crop/storage fruit out of the Pacific Northwest,” says Downs. “Prices have been more or less stable the last two to three weeks, with a bit of a drag on the market as quality regresses toward the domestic season close.”

As a growing commodity with much consumer interest, Downs also notes, aside from the longer term genetic material developments, there are some interesting packaging developments to keep an eye on. “I think the biodegradable packaging initiative is interesting. There are also some augmented reality and personalized labeling initiatives in the pipeline,” he says. “I hope to watch and study its vertical cost-effectiveness, as well as its accessibility to the broader blueberry industry with hopes that the entire blueberry community, including facility and farm workers, as well as consumers.”

For more information:
Jerald Downs
Berry People
Tel: +1 (831) 245-3500

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