Blueberry imports from Argentina expected to rise

11/03/2009 04:16:47 PM
Andy Nelson

Prices will likely fall as volumes of Argentinean blueberries increase significantly the second week of November, importers predict.

Weather problems — abundant heat, followed by abundant rain — delayed shipments at the beginning of the deal, in late October and early November, said Nolan Quinn, salesman for The Oppenheimer Group, Vancouver, British Columbia.

That will change by the second week of November, however, when volume from two major growing regions in Argentina begins peaking at the same time, Quinn said.

“Demand was high last week. It’s moderate now, and it will be a fight next week,” Quinn said Nov. 3.

By the weekend of Nov. 7-8, Argentinean volumes should be close to normal after the sluggish start, said Keith Mixon, president and chief executive officer of Sunny Ridge Farm Inc., Winter Haven, Fla.

Demand, Mixon said Nov. 2, has been “as strong as I can remember in recent history.”

On Nov. 3, the U.S. Department of Agriculture reported prices of $22-24 for flats of 12 4.4-ounce cups of medium blueberries from Argentina, up from a mid-November 2008 price of $14.

Later shipments will likely make up for much of that slow start, but the pre-season estimate of 12,000 tons industrywide from Argentina will likely be closer to 10,000 tons, Mixon predicted.

For the first time this season, Oppenheimer will be packing blueberries from Argentina and Chile under the Ocean Spray label. Quinn expected about 100,000 cartons from Chile and between 50,000 and 60,000 from Argentina.

Chilean product is expected to begin arriving in early December, he said.

“Normal” volumes from Chile are expected by mid-December, Mixon said.

Cool growing weather late in the growing season in Argentina has translated into “fantastic” quality, Mixon said.

Quinn reported great color, good sizing and overall good quality on Argentinean berries shipping in early November.

“Tremendously high” heat, tornadoes and other bad weather could pose significant challenges in the Argentinean deal, said Janice Honigberg, president of Sun Belle Inc., Washington, D.C.

“I’m quite concerned,” Honigberg said Nov. 2. “They’ve had a lot of weather issues recently.”



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