Exports of fresh blueberries from Chile are expected to set another record this year, though this year’s volume increase will likely be down because of September freezes.

About 93,000 tons are expected to be shipped worldwide, up 7% from 2011-12, according to a release from the Santiago-based Chilean Blueberry Committee.

The U.S. and Canada remain the top two export markets for Chilean blueberries. Together, the two countries account for 78% of total production. Chile is the Southern Hemisphere’s largest source of fresh blueberries. It also is the largest exporter of fresh blueberries in the world and to North America.

The projected increase in Chile’s fresh blueberry exports this season follows a season in which exports grew 22%, according to the committee.

Increasing demand among U.S. consumers and increased production in Chile are driving the increases, said Karen Brux, managing director of the San Carlos, Calif.-based Chilean Fresh Fruit Association, the marketing organization for fresh Chilean fruit in North America.

“North Americans recognize the health benefits of fresh blueberries and appreciate the wonderful flavor and versatility,” Brux said. “Thanks to Chile’s counterseasonal production cycle, consumers are enjoying them year-round.”

Chile’s export boom should continue well beyond this season, said Andres Armstrong, the Chilean Blueberry Committee’s executive manager.

“The Chilean blueberry industry currently has 15,596 hectares (38,540 acres) of blueberries planted throughout the country, only half of which are now fully mature,” Armstrong said. “We estimate a 42% increase in production and exports over the next five years. Total exports of fresh blueberries are expected to reach 123,000 tons by 2017-18.”

Consumers and retailers are demanding a year-round supply of blueberries, Armstrong said, and Chile plays a key role in satisfying that need by providing a consistent supply of high-quality fresh blueberries during the North American winter, when domestic supplies are not available.

“U.S. per capita consumption of blueberries has more than doubled since 2005, and consumption continues to grow,” Brux said. “The availability of Chilean blueberries from November through March enables consumers to enjoy blueberries 12 months a year and contributes significantly to category growth.”

To support the growth in exports, the Chilean Blueberry Committee will be undertaking an aggressive promotion campaign in major U.S. and Canadian markets this season.

The campaign will feature in-store merchandising programs, trade show participation, foodservice education, consumer public relations and outreach to registered dietitians. New recipes, videos and other materials also will help tell the story of Chilean blueberries.

For more information, visit www.chileanblueberrycommittee.com.