The future of the Chilean blueberry industry looks bright, importers say.
Demand for Chilean blueberries shows no signs of letting up anytime soon, said Frank Ramos, president of Miami-based customs brokerage The Perishable Specialist.
“Every year has been bigger than the previous year, and this year should be no different,” Ramos said.
The only thing that could keep that trend from continuing, Ramos said, would be Mother Nature, which this season struck orchards and fields throughout Chile with unseasonably low September temperatures.
Chilean blueberry volumes should be up again this season for grower-shippers like Watsonville, Calif.-based California Giant Berry Farms, said Cindy Jewell, marketing director.
And it’s an understatement to say she’s not worried about finding the demand to meet that extra product.
“It’s growing every year — thankfully,” she said. “Chile’s up more than we initially thought, which is always good.”
California Giant expects to ship about 20% more blueberries out of Chile this year compared to last year, Jewell said.
“Consumers enjoying having blueberries in the off-season,” she said. “And the quality is always good. The only thing they struggle with is weather.”
Of course, blueberry category growth isn’t limited to Chile. California Giant’s California blueberry deal also is expected to be up about 20% this season. California typically takes over the lion’s share of the company’s blueberry program in April, Jewell said.
“Berry season is never-ending anymore,” she said.
Vancouver, British Columbia-based The Oppenheimer Group is just as bullish as California Giant about the future of the Chilean blueberry deal.
How much the September freezes will affect Oppy’s plans for 2013-14 was still up in the air in mid-October, Quinn said.
“We’re trying to increase 50% from last season, but it remains to be seen.”
For Oppy, boosting its Chilean acreage is just part of a company-wide plan to increase berry shipments from throughout Latin America, Quinn said.
Oppy has plans to bring in more blueberries and blackberries from Mexico and more blueberries from Peru, for instance.
“In general, we’re increasing our berry (volumes) to match what’s happening at retail,” he said. “We need to meet our customers’ needs, which requires us to get lots of berries.”