Even with more Chilean blueberries expected to go to Asia this year, Dave’s Specialty Imports Inc., Coral Springs, Fla., expects volumes of its conventional blueberries to increase by up to 20%, and organic by up to 10%, said Mike Bowe, the company’s vice president.
The company expects its first air arrivals about Nov. 1, with peak vessel shipments expected to begin right after Christmas, Bowe said.
“The first four weeks of January are usually the strongest,” he said.
As of the week of Oct. 8, Chilean growers were reporting a strong beginning to the season, Bowe said.
“They’re about a week ahead of normal — they’ve had good weather, and it should continue,” he said. “Everything looks good.”
The Argentinean blueberry export deal will likely wind down near the end of December, which should mean a smooth transition to peak Chilean volumes, Bowe said.
Asia is expected to be a bigger target this season for exporters of Chilean blueberries, Bowe said. China, in particular, is a market more and more shippers are setting their sights on.
“That market is untouched at this point,” he said. “It’s a good outlet for them.”
Some logistics problems stand in the way of fully tapping into the Chilean, but once they’re resolved, greater production in Chile will continue to mean an increase in exports to the Far East.
That said, Dave’s Specialty Imports still expects to bring in more blueberries this season from Chile for North American markets, Bowe said. Conventional sales could be up as much as 20%, organic sales as much as 10%, he said.
And organic sales should continue to climb for Dave’s Specialty Imports in future years, Bowe said.
“We have a couple more growers who are talking about organic, which would increase our volumes,” he said. “There’s continual growth (in organics).”
Dave’s Specialty Imports expects a rebound from 2011-12, when strong processing demand and other factors cut into fresh-market shipments to North America.
“Last year the frozen market was very healthy, and a decent amount went to processed,” he said. “Also, Chile had heat at the end of the season, which softened fruit.”
Importers like Dave’s were hesitant to bring soft fruit all the way up from Chile, and volumes fell as a result, Bowe said.
So far this year, frozen markets aren’t nearly as strong as last season, suggesting that a greater percentage of the Chilean blueberry crop will wind up in fresh markets, Bowe said.
And barring another late-season heat wave, volumes won’t be lower because of soft fruit, he said.