Chilean blueberry grower-shippers look for destinations for their fruit in directions other than north.
The U.S. and Canada aren’t the only export markets clamoring for Chilean blueberries, said Nolan Quinn, berry category director for Vancouver, British Columbia-based The Oppenheimer Group.
“Europe and Asia are definitely competing with the U.S.,” Quinn said. “Asia increases every year.”
That will be particularly felt by North American importers early in this year’s deal, given the damage to crops by September freezes and subsequent scarcity of product in some growing regions, Quinn said.
“It will be competitive, especially for early fruit,” he said. “Early fruit will be difficult to come by — and expensive.”
Brian Bocock, Grand Junction, Mich.-based vice president of product management for Naturipe Farms LLC, Naples, Fla., said the company aims to boost its blueberry exports to Asia with the hire earlier this year of Clay Wittmeyer, who is based in the company’s Salinas, Calif., office.
Wittmeyer is director of international sales. Chilean blueberries are among those sourced by Naturipe that the company hopes to send more of to Asia, Bocock said.
“Demand continues to increase, and we expect Asian shipments to increase,” he said.
Volumes to Asia may not be up this year because of the September freezes in Chile, but the overall percentage of Naturipe’s Chilean volumes slated for Asia should be up, Bocock said.
Hong Kong, Japan, Taiwan and Singapore are among Naturipe’s Asian destinations, and Bocock describes South Korea as a “real burgeoning opportunity.”
And then there’s the biggest fish of them all.
“Everybody has their eye on China getting direct access,” Bocock said.