The blueberry campaign is underway in Huelva with good prospects as it progresses, with good results that are expected to continue during this month and even the next.
"This year, storm Filomena, which crossed the Iberian Peninsula in January, causing temperatures to drop, delayed the production of the early varieties for more than a month. At the same time, the cold weather brought forward the production of the late varieties," says Manuel Cerpa, of the Seville-based fruit exporter Berry Dealer.
"The top firms in the sector agreed that it was a risky campaign, because at that time it seemed that all varieties were going to arrive in April, and that both the early and late varieties were going to record production peaks at the same time."
Manuel Cerpa and Pablo González, commercial director and manager of BerryDealer, respectively
"However, temperatures in March and April have been very mild. If blueberries don't have sun, light and pleasant temperatures above 25 ºC, they ripen more slowly, so the peak we expected was eventually not reached," says Manuel. "Right now, the production of early varieties such as the Snowchaser or Windsord has already finished or is about to finish, and that of mid-season varieties such as the Ventura, Emerald or Jewel is in full swing with two weeks to go. As for the late varieties, the first blueberries of the varieties that were at a more advanced stage of development are already being harvested, while the harvest of the later varieties will kick off in about 10 days," says the commercial director.
Consequently, there are very good prospects for the remainder of the season, which according to Manuel Cerpa, "is going to be marked by stability until the end."
Strong market demand
According to the expert, the demand for this berry this year has continued to be very strong and, although it was initially announced that this season's blueberry production in Huelva was going to grow significantly compared to the previous one, "there has been a shortage for practically 80% of the campaign."
"Prospects had pointed to a year with 40-50% more volume due to the age of the trees, the hectares in production and the varieties planted, especially taking past figures into account, but this hasn't been the case. There has been a production shortage and a slow and stable supply, without any peaks. But what matters most is that prices have remained stable," he says.
In fact, blueberries are the best performing berry in Huelva this season. "It has also been a good year for raspberries, especially because prices have been good during the winter. There has been a shortage of fruit, and the fruit that was available was of good quality. As for strawberries, this year prices are very good so far, but there is not so much optimism in the sector," he says. "Most growers in Huelva are unhappy because of a lack of volumes, and although prices have been good, the quality issues and low production rates (with some varieties recording up to 50% drops) have still caused the final results to be poor."
Delayed blueberry yields in Europe
While spring temperatures have allowed Huelva's blueberry campaign to avoid the concentration of the supply that was feared at the beginning of the year, in the rest of Europe the weather is not being as forgiving, delaying both the open ground productions and those under tunnels.
"The productions under glass, which are mainly located in Belgium and the Netherlands, are pulling through. These countries have already started with their own strawberries, cutting the Spanish campaign short. However, in other countries the demand is still strong, with programs still made for part of next month, as they don't know yet when they will have their own productions and they are aware that they will need to continue importing," says the professional.
"The blueberry production is arriving between 15 and 20 days late in many parts of Europe and that is going to guarantee that Spain will remain in the market during all of May and June. And with good programs."
Europe is the main destination for Berry Dealer's blueberries, which also ships berries produced in western Andalusia to the Middle East and Asia by air as a complement to the export campaign. In any case, the sector's efforts to find new destinations for Huelva's blueberries, which led to the recent opening of the Brazilian market, offer new opportunities for this exporting company.
"We are already starting negotiations to initiate relations in Brazil. We have potential there and we are studying the protocol to meet the requirements and be able to dive in there," says Manuel. "I am totally convinced that it will be a country to be taken into account in the future."