Peru is the world’s largest exporter of fresh blueberries, and in 2022/23 the country exported a record 286 million tonne of fresh blueberries, according to industry data for the year ending 30 April 2023. Initial crop estimates for the 2023 season predicted that volumes would be up by 14% to 326 million tonne. This prediction did not factor in El Niño.
“We have seen the impact of El Niño on Peru’s agriculture in the past, but this time we are seeing a significant, direct impact on blueberry production, in particular in the north of Peru, which we haven’t experienced before,” said Roger Horak at Fruit Attraction in Madrid. Horak is the executive chairman and founder of United Exports, the company that produces and markets OZblu® blueberries.
Based on data published by the Peruvian industry body, Proarandanos, blueberry exports out of Peru, as at week 38, are some 48% lower than they were at the same point last year – attributed to the impact of El Niño. Most of the growing regions in Peru report that the crop will be later and volumes will be significantly lower than projected. Leading blueberry advisor Sebastián Ochoa Münzenmayer stated, “The El Niño effect resulted in a warmer winter, which impacted many blueberry varieties – even those that require a limited amount of chill. We are seeing most varieties producing significantly less fruit or simply not producing at all.”
Horak commented: “In contrast to this current trajectory, when it comes to OZblu Magica, we are seeing more and more magic and, based on our data, we don’t believe that the yield on this highly productive variety will be impacted at all and will again be expecting marketable yields to average well over 40 tonne per hectare. OZblu Magica is part of our evergreen series and it is far more resilient when it comes to chill requirements.
We have seen the effect inflation has had on production costs, and unfortunately pricing has not maintained the balance in all markets. When you have a year like this – plus no production – it has a massive effect on the economic viability of Peruvian farms. Having OZblu Magica as part of the production units is a huge win from a farming income perspective and as importantly will ensure supply for customers, when others are letting them down.”
OZ Varieties has embarked on a limited expansion programme of OZblu Magica. This variety is favoured by producers: the fruit holds a record for 52 days at sea with a green QC on arrival, and independent taste test research has consistently placed OZblu Magica on the podium. Horak concluded: “Looking at Chinese market reports, OZblu Magica is continually placed at the top of the list. We are also seeing the same results and demand from our top-tier USA retailers who are comfortable paying premium prices for their consumers to have access to OZblu Magica. We simply don’t have the supply to scratch the surface of the demand we have created. This is why we are expanding our licensing of OZblu Magica to growers in Peru and Mexico, with third-party growers, to ensure we can satisfy customer demand.”