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Produces and exports in Peru, as well as importers and buyers in many markets around the world, are holding their breath. That is to see if the weather will improve to signal a return to normal blueberry production from Peru, after a significant drop in production last season. Some producers say it is too early to tell, while others say there are some early signs of better weather. In North America there is ample supply. Florida and Georgia have overlapped with strong crops this season. Mexico also has supply, together with Peru, but despite this good supply demand is still strong. In Southern Africa supply from Zimbawe started early while South Africa will start harvesting in coming weeks. China is seeing very little imports while supply from Yunnan is ample. Premium blueberries are becoming scarce. Supply in China has increased led by expanding local production. In turn prices are lower due to higher local production. The market prices are high for the limited imported blueberries.

Across Europe, there have been reports of frost damage in blueberry cultivation. Damage has been reported in Serbia, Central Poland, as well as Northern and Southern Germany. However, the damage in the Netherlands has been very limited. In Germany, an early start to the harvest is expected due to the warmer spring weather. Spanish blueberries are gradually coming onto the German market. Portuguese, Romania, the Netherlands will follow soon after that. Italy's blueberry campaign started a few weeks early in the south. Favourable weather conditions led to good early quality and volumes. Market demand was good along with high prices. In the Netherlands, large volumes of Moroccan and Spanish berries are on the market with prices under pressure. As Morocco finishes the season with strong volumes, Spain has yet to reach the peak of their blueberry campaign, which is expected from the end of May. Turkey is seeing strong demand from markets. The very mild weather supported the early harvest of blueberries. The period when harvest will be most intense is around May and June. Morocco had a successful yet difficult season. Their season comes to an end in 2-3 weeks. Egypt's blueberry season has seen prices that were halved. Their season is drawing to a close in a couple of weeks. Cold snaps and heat waves over 40 degrees contributed to inconsistent fruits and harvest cycles.

Peru: Wait and see if the weather improves
After a disappointing 2023 season due to the hot weather challenges that led to lower production and exports, Peru's blueberry industry is cautiously watching the weather for the next season. Industry body ProArandanos is busy taking their time to do an industry-wide survey that will inform their estimate for the new crop.

A large producer and exporter in Peru noted that it is still too early for them to say if the weather will be more favourable for them to return to normal harvest levels. "We are preparing the fields, but it's too early. So far because a lot of growers harvested until the end of season and extend it for few more weeks, it may have an impact in production for the next crop, but it shall not be as dramatic as it was in the past season."

The latest statistics available from ProArandanos until week 13 of the 2023-24 campaign, 223 thousand tons of fresh blueberries have been exported, with a drop of 22% compared to last season. Of that total, 56% have been destined for the United States, followed by Europe with 22% (not counting the United Kingdom), China with 12% and other destinations with 4%.

"Transport routes remain the same in participation. However, we have a 143% growth in the air shipments compared to the 2023-24 campaign." Furthermore, the tons harvested in each production area in Peru shows a 23% drop in La Libertad, 40% drop in Lambayeque, Ica was the only region to increase with 9%, Ancash was down 10% and Lima 6% lower. A new estimate is expected soon.

North America: Ample blueberry supply pressures pricing
North American blueberry supply is abundant. Florida and Georgia have overlapped, and both regions have an incredibly strong crop this year. Organic production in California is also underway with good volumes.

On imports, Mexico is producing right now but the majority of its fruit is staying in the Southern states and West Coast. Peru is also exporting to the U.S. currently and collectively, the two countries are adding to a flush of supply in North America.

That said, demand is staying strong. Strong quality out of Florida and Georgia is helping move fruit quickly and keeping consumers eager to buy blueberries. However, that's the biggest challenge; keeping inventories fresh and fruit moving.

As for prices, they are down across the board due to that strong supply. The market has dropped off faster than has been seen in the past, as Georgia burst onto the scene with a record crop. This was not the case last year, as the domestic season began with many weather issues and decreased availability.

Southern Africa: Zimbabwe season started, South Africa to start in coming weeks
The blueberry season in Zimbabwe has started, with the earliest blueberry crop from Limpopo and Mpumalanga expected over coming weeks. Some blueberry producers are reporting earlier flowering and budding. The 2024/2025 export season will gain momentum from July/August until January.

During the previous export season, South African blueberry exports fell by 3,022 tonnes to 21,212 tonnes for the 2023-2024 season, but it is regarded as a successful previous season nonetheless because of the high demand-high pricing scenario that played out.

"There's more buoyancy in the market with the Peruvian supply in all likelihood low again this year due to high temperatures, although not as low as last year. It should hopefully have a positive impact on pricing for berries this season," says one source. "The other impact is because Peru pushed their season so late to recover some of the volumes, as late as possible, we might find that our early season price spike, which normally comes down with Peru's entry, continues a bit longer."

The Western Cape would benefit from a longer window without Peru. One blueberry exporter: "The Western Cape is too late: when their blueberries enter the market, they compete head-on with Peru and then there's an incredible amount of fruit in the market. Western Cape blueberry growers won't get the same prices as the earlier producers from the north."

When the blueberry industry started, all fruit was flown out, but that ratio has changed. Last season, 56% of South African blueberries were sent by sea, exposing it to the risk of delays not only at South African harbours, but worldwide disruptions as well. "Towards the end of the previous season we had a container of blueberries that took eight weeks to arrive in the market. After some delays in the departing harbour, it was on one of the first vessels to be attacked by a drone in the Red Sea," the exporter adds.

Europe remains the largest recipient of South African blueberries, despite a drop in exports during the 2023/2024 season, while there was a slight increase in blueberry trade with the UK (second largest recipient) which is still significantly ahead of the volumes that the Middle East and the Far East take.

China: Few imports, local Yunnan supply in markets
Yunnan blueberries are currently in their final season with premium products becoming increasingly scarce. There has been a notable influx of Yunnan blueberries into the fruit market recently, attracting buyers from all over China. Consequently, the market volume for blueberries is steadily rising. Earlier this year, both Yunnan and Sichuan witnessed a surplus of high-quality domestic blueberries, resulting in soaring prices due to exceeding demand, especially for larger-sized blueberries. However, with increased arrivals, the prices have started to decline recently.

April marks the peak supply period for Yunnan blueberries, characterized by abundant output and stable quality. Consequently, the fruit market prices have been steadily decreasing in recent days. As the Yunnan blueberry season gradually nears its end, a small quantity of Shandong blueberries has started to appear in the market. Given their lower cost, Shandong blueberries are likely to dominate the market towards late April. Anticipations suggest that post-May Day, blueberries from Anhui, Sichuan, Liaoning, and other regions will enter the market successively. As temperatures rise further, blueberry production will decline, potentially leading to wholesale prices dropping to around ¥10/box for larger fruits.

Currently, the market primarily consists of the final batch of Yunnan blueberries, with fluctuating quality. Premium products with a pure sweet taste are scarce, resulting in an oversupply situation upon arrival in the market. Consequently, the prices for average-quality blueberries remain stagnant. The prevailing average prices for blueberries in the Jiaxing Fruit Market today are 12+ (¥75-85/box), 15+ (¥90-95/box), 18+ (¥105-115/box), and 22+ (¥130-140/box).

Compared to last year, the prices of blueberries this year are lower due to expanded cultivation across China, with the number of provinces producing blueberries increasing from 10 to 27 by 2023. This expansion has led to a significant rise in blueberry production, resulting in a surplus compared to the previous year. The initial high production levels, coupled with supply outstripping demand, have contributed to the price drop.

Regarding the imported blueberry, this year, the Chinese blueberry market is witnessing a notable decrease in imported blueberries, keeping prices relatively high. This shift is primarily due to the superior quality of domestic blueberries compared to imported ones. Imported blueberries typically take 20 to 30 days to transport, negatively impacting their freshness and taste. In contrast, domestic blueberries are fresh fruits, reaching the market within three days of harvesting, resulting in better taste and presenting new opportunities for the domestic blueberry market.

Germany: Early start to the harvest expected
The omens for German blueberries are currently good: Due to the very warm weeks in early spring, an early start of the harvest can be expected. Nevertheless, it is still too early to give a more precise outlook on the expected quantities and qualities.

From mid-March, the annual change of season from the southern to the northern hemisphere takes place. Importers can look back on a very strong season for organic blueberries in Peru in terms of quality, while the Chilean produce was somewhat weaker. Meanwhile, the Spanish harvest is gradually making its way onto the market and prices are slightly above the previous year's level. From week 18 on, Portuguese blueberries are entering the market as well. First quantities from Romania are expected from week 22 on, followed by the goods from the Netherlands, probably from the end of week 23. Two to three weeks later, the Polish and German harvest is about to start.

Italy: Campaign started early in the south
The blueberry campaign started a few weeks early in southern Italy. From a commercial point of view, the season started well, with good market demand and high prices.

Two weeks earlier than last year, on 15 April, the Italian blueberry sales campaign of a large cooperative in northern Italy, with areas stretching from the south to the north of the country, began in the main fruit and vegetable markets. Excellent production, both in terms of quality and quantity, favoured by the climatic trend in the first months of the year. Even in Campania, this year's blueberry campaign started early due to favourable weather conditions and high temperatures compared to the average for the period. "This year we believe that it is not a year of great production; even if we lose in quantity, the quality of the product is good," says a Campanian businessman. In terms of production, the Sicilian blueberry campaign is still underway, while the harvest in northern Italy will have to wait until June. In Piedmont, the blueberry harvest is expected to start in early June, taking into account the weather conditions until the end of May. Estimates of the total quantity are similar to those of previous years, perhaps even a little higher. In addition to Germany, the United Kingdom and Switzerland, attempts are being made to export the Italian product by air to overseas markets, but everything is still in progress.

In wholesale markets, Peruvian blueberries are recorded at prevailing prices of between €16 and €19. The product of Italian origin - where present - is recorded at a prevailing price of between €15.50 and €16. In markets where both Italian and Peruvian blueberries are present at the same time, the prevailing price of the Peruvian product decreased from the end of week 17 to the beginning of week 18.

As regards consumption of blueberries in Italy, the positive trend continues. In the twelve months to February 2024, blueberries were purchased by more than 25% of Italian households, mainly in pre-packed packages for an average purchase of 250 grams, about 6 times a year (GfK Consumer Panel Services data).

Netherlands: Large volumes of Moroccan and Spanish berries, prices under pressure
Currently, the Moroccan berry season is winding down with large volumes, while the Spanish berry season is in full swing. "We're seeing substantial volumes coming in, and prices are somewhat under pressure. Due to the price drop, there are quite a few promotions planned in recent weeks, which helps move volume. For example, there are many promotions featuring 500-gram packages, which definitely boosts sales," said a Dutch berry packer.

Across Europe, there have been reports of frost damage in blueberry cultivation. Damage has been reported in Serbia, Central Poland, as well as Northern and Southern Germany. However, the damage in the Netherlands has been very limited. "Most growers in the Netherlands have irrigation systems or other frost protection measures in place. Overall, the harvest looks promising, and we'll also be starting two weeks earlier than usual."

Belgium: Differences in quality put pressure on prices
There is currently a lot of extra volume coming into the blueberry market. "As a result of the extra supply on the market and the wide variety of qualities of product, we see that prices have dropped currently," a Belgian trader said. "Indeed, the market is experiencing an increase in volume from Morocco due to the peak weeks of harvest. Meanwhile, Spanish growers are also harvesting their mid-season varieties and expect to work towards a flatter peak in weeks 20 to 21 compared to previous years. Portugal has been harvesting from the south for a while, but soon the north will also add more volume to the market. So there will gradually be more and more supply, which, besides the different qualities, is pushing down the price."

Spain: The peak of the blueberry campaign has yet to be reached
Regarding blueberries, a part of Onubafruit's younger plantations have made it possible to produce 2,000 tons more at the beginning of the campaign compared to last year.

"The peak of the campaign has yet to be reached. That should happen from the end of this month," says a Spanish operator. "The supply from the southern hemisphere has been lower than usual, so we have started the campaign with less overlap and less competition, keeping a good commercial momentum."

"It is true that production is on the rise globally, and there is supply all year round. But it is worth noting that consumption also continues to increase and settle. Blueberries are still relatively new, but their quality has improved a lot, and their price is more competitive, so the product is very well suited for promotions, and consumption is very positively influenced by this," says the Spanish operator.

This year, Onubafruit plans to produce and market around 24,000 tons of strawberries, about 20,000 tons of blueberries and approximately 8,500 tons of raspberries. These will be mainly distributed in European markets.

France: Demand not strong
Currently blueberries that available on the market are from Moroccan, Spanish and some Portuguese origins. Demand is not yet very strong due to the weather. Average prices for blueberries are between 7 and 10 euros per 125-gram of small crates depending on origin, and up to 14 euros for organic blueberries.

Turkey: Strong demand from markets
The weather is very mild in Turkey, which supported the early harvest of blueberries in Turkey. The period when harvest will be most intense is around May and June. The feedback exporters are getting now shows that the demand for blueberries will be very intense. The developments in blueberries in Turkey are attracting a lot of attention and the market seems to be growing gradually.

For now, there seems to be strong demand from Dubai, Russia, Europe and the UK, as well as from Turkish retailers. Weather has been rather supportive, so there were no challenges in that regard. Prices have cooled down a bit since the start of the Turkish season. The blueberry season started in January and the price was at 15 euro per kilogram, looking at 125-gr packaged products. A few weeks ago, it continued at 9 euro per kilogram.

Morocco: Successful yet difficult season in Morocco
The Moroccan blueberry season comes to an end in 2-3 weeks. Overall, the season has been positive, but it was marked by several difficulties. Volumes have increased considerably compared with the previous season. A grower's representative says: "Pending the centralization of data at the end of the campaign, I can confidently report a double-digit increase in exports. However, last season's volumes were exceptionally low, and this season only represents a return to normal." The increase is due to higher acreage. Volumes are only limited by adverse weather conditions. Several climatic accidents have led to fruit losses.

Two other major factors disrupted the season. The Spanish alert in March on the detection of hepatitis A in a Moroccan shipment of strawberries had an impact on the blueberry campaign. The growers' representative says: "This incident did not influence our customers, who continued to maintain solid demand. It did, however, affect the Moroccan food safety authorities, who imposed severe export procedures on soft fruits, including blueberries."

The second factor was labor shortages, as the April harvest peak coincided with Ramadan and Eid celebrations, as well as the harvesting of other crops, resulting not only in higher labour costs but also a loss of fruit freshness. Delays in harvesting meant that large volumes no longer met the fresh segments criteria and had to be redirected to the much cheaper frozen sector.

Prices were lower than last season, which was to be expected given last year's exceptionally low volumes. The season started at 80 MAD per kilo, then dropped. The season average was 50 MAD, with higher prices for sizes 18+ destined for Russia. The UK remains the leading market for Moroccan blueberries, followed by Europe. Canada shows a demand at the end of the season, Singapore and Hong Kong at its beginning. Growers are eagerly awaiting the opening of the Chinese market and a response from the Chinese government to the ongoing negotiations.

Egypt: Blueberry prices halved
The Egyptian blueberry season is drawing to a close, in a couple of weeks. It has been marked by a drop in prices, but yields and sizes are improving towards the end of the season. Climate was the season's culprit. A grower says: "We had a few cold snaps and a few intense heat waves of over 40 degrees, which occurred during the harvest, resulting in inconsistent fruits and inconsistent harvest cycles."

Prices for Egyptian blueberries are down on last season, the grower explains: "This year, export prices are on average 40-50% lower than last year, but we believe that this year's prices are a true reflection of the market. Last year's high prices were only due to the difficult weather conditions in Morocco."

Market-wise, the Asian and Middle Eastern markets are the main destination for Egyptian blueberries, due to the possibility of moving smaller volume few times a week by air. This is not possible in Europe. Egyptian exporters only send small volumes by air twice a week, making their price uncompetitive with the large supply from Spain.

Next week's topic: Grapefruit