Freezes in Chile in September delayed the start of the blueberry deal, but volumes should pick up after the holidays.
“There’s not a lot of volume for Christmas ads, but it should return to normal after Christmas,” said Nolan Quinn, berry category director for Vancouver, British Columbia-based The Oppenheimer Group.
Volumes should return to normal in January for Naples, Fla.-based Naturipe Farms LLC, when volumes begin shipping from Chile’s regions 8 and 9, which weren’t hit as hard by the freezes, said Brian Bocock, the company’s vice president of product management.
“There are real promotional opportunities in weeks 3 through 8,” Bocock said.
On Dec. 17, the U.S. Department of Agriculture reported prices of $37-40 for flats of 12 1-pint cups of Chilean blueberries, down from $40-42 last year at the same time.
The week of Dec. 16, arrivals were starting to pick up, and more retailers were switching from 6-ounce to 18-ounce containers, said Karen Brux, North American managing director of the Chilean Fresh Fruit Association, San Carlos, Calif.
Retail promotions should start in early January and run into early March, both in the U.S. and Canada, Brux said.
“In terms of total exported volume from Chile, we’re still anticipating exports of 93,000 tons, an increase of 7% over the previous season,” Brux said. “Retail demand is strong, quality is great, and we’re expecting strong sales over the coming months.”
Most Chilean shipments in the first half of December came by air, Quinn said. High air freight costs helped drive up prices, he said.
Prices will likely stay stable into early January before coming down slightly when volumes pick up, Bocock said. Higher demand from Asia could check the amount of fruit that makes it North America this season, he said.
By the end of the week of Dec. 16, however, vessel shipments should start to take over and volumes increase steadily. Peak volumes will run about two weeks behind because of the freezes.
Some of the early season losses can be made up later in the deal, but Oppy’s 2013-14 volumes will likely end up being only slightly larger than last season, instead of significantly larger, as the company had planned, Quinn said.
Oppy also is bringing in blueberries from Peru for the first time this year. The company expects high-quality fruit through April, Quinn said.
“It’s been good — it hits a nice window where Argentina is gapping.”
Naturipe, which is bringing in light volumes from Peru, reported excellent quality out of Chile at the start of the deal, Bocock said.
“Other than the freezes, the weather has cooperated,” he said. “Last year there was a lot of rain, this year there hasn’t been. We expect better quality than last year.”
Oppy also reported excellent quality in the early deal, Quinn said.