(Dec. 27) Importers expect peak volumes of Chilean blueberries to begin arriving by the second week of January.

That means plenty of opportunities for promotions ahead, said Dave Bowe, owner of Dave’s Specialty Imports Inc., Miami.

“You just don’t believe the amount of berries you can sell during that time period,” he said.

The peak supplies traditionally arrive the first week of January as more supplies come via boat, but cool weather in Chile could cause a delay, Bowe said.

Mike Klackle, senior vice president of sales for Global Berry Farms LLC, Naples, Fla., said supplies look plentiful through the month of February.

“It’s been a great quality season so far,” he added.

The morning of Dec. 23, Bowe reported Miami f.o.b.s for trays of 12 4.4-ounce cups of Chilean blueberries at $14.

The same time last year, the USDA reported a range of $14-16. Prices stayed in the $12-14 range through Jan. 22.

Bowe said prices from early January through the first week of February should be in the $12-13 range.

As the Chilean peak emerged in late December, Argentine production was tapering off. Bowe, who distributes fruit from Vital Berry Marketing SA, Santiago, Chile, said he’d received his air arrivals of Argentine blueberries in mid-December.

“The blueberry deal is just unheard of,” he said of the Argentine deal.

“You just can’t believe how much it’s growing.”

The Chilean deal also is growing. As of Dec. 19, the U.S. had imported 648,000 flats of 12 1-pint cups from Chile, compared to 486,000 flats the same time last season, according to the USDA. Airfreight for the South American berry deal has been “ridiculous” this season, Klackle said. Besides higher rates, importers also are facing delays in service.

“It’s been a very tough season so far,” he said.

“However, I think the buying trade will never know it.”

In light of the potential for delays, Global Berry Farms has kept its inventories high enough to accommodate them, Klackle said. The company’s first ocean shipment of Chilean blueberries arrived in mid-December.

Bowe said he expects more ocean arrivals to come shortly before Christmas, then one around Dec. 30 and another Jan. 1 or 2
“And after that, we’re off and rolling,” he said. Bowe said the “lifesaver” for the Chilean berry deal has been sending controlled-atmosphere shipments via boat. The boat freight is substantially lower, which could translate to more affordable prices for consumers, he said.

He said Dave’s Specialty Imports had reached a deal starting Dec. 30 in which it was guaranteed a 10-day trip for ocean arrivals of its berries from Chile to Miami, “which is fantastic,” he said.

U.S. arrivals of Chilean blueberries should continue through early April, Bowe said.