“It’s spotty,” Bowe said. “The problem is we don’t have all the reports in yet. Regions 6 and 7 seem to have gotten hit hard.”
It’s not that simple, though, he said.
Even within regions, there are considerable variations in damage.
“I talked to one guy who had some effects, but his neighbors were in pretty good shape.”
Looking at the industry as a whole though, Bowe said, the bottom line is that blueberries fared pretty well overall.
“Other crops got hit much harder.”
In mid-October it was still early to tell definitively the toll the freezes took on Chilean blueberry crops, said Nolan Quinn, berry category director for Vancouver, British Columbia-based The Oppenheimer Group.
But first appearances suggested blueberries fared better than other crops, said Quinn, who estimated Oppenheimer’s early season losses at up to 20%.
“It’s still being worked out, but the early blues were affected by the cold, some more than others,” he said.
After the early deal, Oppenheimer and others will have to reassess, Quinn said. Many later plants hadn’t even begun to flower when the freezes hit.
“We’re very much in wait-and-see mode,” he said. “There could potentially be more, as the plants grow.”
The freezes have slowed arrivals of Argentinian blueberries into North American markets this fall, and that’s likely an indicator of what importers can expect from Chile, said Cindy Jewell, marketing director for Watsonville, Calif.-based California Giant Berry Farms
“There’s a delay in Argentina, and Chile is usually behind Argentina,” Jewell said. “We haven’t really changed the forecast, though, because we haven’t had any solid information.”