“Blueberries in Europe are expensive, and that’s a good thing: there is limited availability, with Peru being down by as much as 40%, and they’ve passed their seasonal peak,” says Elzette Schutte, operations manager at BerriesZA, the South African berry industry organization.
“From our side, we’ve ended in the north, and the Western Cape has started harvesting, and we’re expecting a fair bit of blueberries over the coming three weeks.”
South African blueberry exports are running behind last year’s exports (9,622 tonnes exported by week 44 versus 14,200 tonnes last year at the same time).
The reason is the reduction in the exportable crop from the north of the country as a result of heavy early rains.
“By how much the northern crop is down we don’t exactly know yet; whether it’s 50% or 30%, we’re still unable to say,” Elzette says. “But this has been a factor in why the season is running behind, and then the Western Cape did start a bit later, too.”
In the Western Cape, fruit sizes are a bit smaller, she notes, but there’s a big crop hanging.
“We don’t expect prices to drop in Europe because of the shortage. The UK is also nice and stable. We were discussing the Middle East and the Far East yesterday, and everywhere, it’s stable.”
She adds: “It’s looking good for South Africa.”
More than half of the blueberry crop has been flown out this year in response to the pull from Europe, 2,000 tonnes more than last year’s airfreight numbers at this stage. It is also a way of avoiding Cape Town port.
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