Courtesy Dave's Specialty ImportsDespite freezes, Chilean blueberries will begin to take over the market in December with normal sizing and quality said vice president of Dave’s Specialty Imports Inc., Mike Bowe.Severe weather at the beginning of the season likely will leave its mark on the 2013-14 Chilean blueberry deal.
Chilean blueberries were slated to begin shipping about Nov. 4, said Cindy Jewell, marketing director for Watsonville, Calif.-based California Giant Berry Farms.
That could change, though, based on how a string of September freezes affects the blueberry deal. That also goes for whatever else Mother Nature has up her sleeve.
“It’s always a roll of the dice,” Jewell said.
If the Nov. 4 forecast holds, volumes should begin picking up by Nov. 18, with the deal really hitting its stride in December, she said.
Some growers may have lost up to 70% of their blueberry crop to the freeze, others as little as 5%, said Nolan Quinn, berry category director for Vancouver, British Columbia-based The Oppenheimer Group.
One grower, Quinn said, suffered zero losses.
As of mid-October, it appeared the only effect on the 2013-14 crop would be volume-related, Quinn said. However, that could change as the deal progresses.
“We don’t know enough about the size of the fruit.”
Oppenheimer expected its first arrivals of Chilean blueberries by air in late November, with vessels following in mid-December.
That’s not far off from a more typical year, with one exception, Quinn said.
“It’s similar timing, just less volume.”
Demand at the beginning of the Chilean deal could depend largely on Chile’s eastern neighbor, also hit hard by the September freezes, Quinn said.
“It remains to be seen what happens out of Argentina,” he said. “They were delayed significantly.”
Rather than kicking off the first week of October, the Argentinean deal was more likely to start the third week of October. How that affects November movement is still anyone’s guess, Quinn said.
“If they’re steady through November, it should be a smooth transition (to Chile),” he said. “If not, there could be a lot of product.”
As of mid-October, Quinn was leaning towards a smooth transition with “pretty steady” markets heading into the early Chilean deal.
Despite the major September freezes that decimated some Chilean crops, blueberry importers were expecting a good crop out of Chile. However, as of mid-October it was too soon to tell for sure, said Frank Ramos, president of Miami-based customs brokerage The Perishable Specialist.
“From what everyone’s saying, it should be a big year,” Ramos said. “Everyone’s expecting some kinds of setback (from the freezes), but to what extent remains to be seen.”