Contrary to the trend in recent years, Peruvian blueberry volumes are currently quite disappointing. "Due to El Niño, Peru has significantly lower production, something that's only now becoming truly clear. For a long time, there was still hope, even among local parties, that things would turn out well, but sufficient export quality is lacking," says Jan Marc Schulz of SFI Rotterdam.
He also does not yet see the market situation recovering any time soon. "Several European importers are having Peruvian berries flown in, so those kilos are no longer coming in by sea. I, thus, foresee little change in the coming weeks. And there are hardly any alternatives. Blueberries from Argentina are also flown in, but those aren't cheap. There's not much South African supply on the market either."
"European berries are still on the occasional store shelf, but those will disappear in the coming weeks. Slightly more overseas berries won't be enough to fill this under-supplied market. It's generally a completely different market situation than projected, assuming annually increasing volumes because of new plantings," explains Jan Marc.
"Since demand remains stable, that's making for unusually high market prices. Yet, last week - when people wanted to increase that price slightly - suppliers had to backtrack. At some point, it must stop. Nobody likes losing money. Then traders sometimes choose not to deliver previously promised programs, despite possible sanctions from the supers."
Equally contrary is the trend toward smaller (125 g) packaging that is in full force. That is to keep berry prices from seeming too alarmingly high to shoppers. "A 125 g tray costs around €2, depending on the size," Jan Marc continues. "In bulk, small berries (from Argentina) are fetching about €12/kg, but large Peruvian ones easily reach €14 per kg."
"Thanks to our long-term relationships, we still, luckily, have access to produce. But that, too, is obviously subject to crop reduction. The berries' quality is quite good. That's also because of stricter selection processes in the country of origin. They've learned they face harsh penalties when sending inferior quality to Europe," Jan Marc concludes.