Importers wait to gauge effects of freezes

10/28/2013 12:03:00 PM
Andy Nelson

The effects of several September freezes remain to be seen, Chilean blueberry importers and officials say.

When it comes to the September freezes, Brian Bocock, vice president of product management for Naturipe Farms LLC, Naples, Fla., said he tries to see the glass as half full.

“We were affected, but we’ll still be producing, which is a good thing,” he said. “Some other fruits were completely decimated.”

Because of the freezes, instead of its typical annual increase in year-to-year production, the 2013-14 Chilean blueberry season likely will see flat growth or slight increases, Bocock said.

The effects won’t be felt right away.

“The big effects will be in December and January,” he said.

As the season progresses, however, the deal should get closer to normal, Bocock said. Freeze damage to fields in southern Chile wasn’t as bad as damage in the central and northern regions.

“In February and March, there should be some pretty good numbers.”

As of mid-October, it was too soon to tell what effect the freezes could have on the size of blueberries harvested, Bocock said.

If berries abort and fall off of trees, the berries that remain on those trees wind up on the big side — the trees’ energy will be channeled into less fruit, Bocock said.

But there’s no way of knowing exactly how much fruit could abort, he said.

Quality also could be affected by the freezes, but Bocock said he isn’t overly worried.

“There could be more scars on some fruit, but I think the quality overall will be very good.”

Blueberries may not be among the fruit crops hurt worst by the September freezes, but they were still hurt, said Frank Ramos, president of Miami-based customs brokerage The Perishable Specialist.

“Other commodities were severely affected, but blueberries were also affected,” Ramos said.

Some Chilean fruit was already shipping as early as the week of Oct. 7, Ramos said. How much comes into the U.S., and when, remains to be seen.

“Everybody’s being cautious in their projections,” he said. “People are taking a wait-and-see attitude. Everyone’s optimistic, but they are expecting some setbacks.”

The difficulty in figuring out exactly how much this season’s Chilean blueberry crop will be affected by the freezes has to do with timing and the geographical diversity of Chile’s many growing regions, said Mike Bowe, vice president of Dave’s Specialty Imports Inc., Coral Springs, Fla.


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