Marketing agents in the Chilean blueberry deal say they expect the upcoming season to continue a trend of increased volumes.
They say they expect a normal start to the deal in the latter half of October and run through mid-April.
“Fresh exports should increase by 15%, and frozen market should play a more relevant role, moving from last season’s 24% of the crop to 28% this season,” said Andres Armstrong, general manager of the Chilean Blueberry Committee, Santiago. “Growing conditions have been normal so far, and we forecast steady production growth for the next five years.”
He said Chile has about 32,000 acres of blueberries planted, but half of the acreage has not yet reached full production.
Conditions for the current crop have been good, said Keith Mixon, president of Winter Haven, Fla.-based SunnyRidge Farm Inc.
“We’re anticipating a fun year,” Mixon said. “I get frequent updates, and everything’s going very nicely down there — good weather, good production, it looks like. Everybody’s excited about what might be out there.”
Mixon said the reports he has received indicate a production volume increase of up to 20% is likely this year.
What that means for the U.S. market is hard to say, he said.
“A couple of factors are large export markets other than the U.S. and Canada and a significant frozen industry right now that’s hungry for berries,” he said. “Those two factors will give growers options for fruit out there at really competitive prices. From a price standpoint, it’s stable. It’s not higher and marginally more fruit.”
The Oppenheimer Group, Vancouver, British Columbia, started harvesting the oneil and misty varieties in northern Chile’s Ovalle Valley in mid-September, and others were to follow as the season moved south, said Nolan Quinn, berry category director.
“The crop is doing very well. It has been a good growing season with optimal weather conditions,” he said.
The first shipments of Argentine blueberries arrived at U.S. ports in early October, and Chile was expected to follow by the end of the month, said Bob Von Rohr, marketing and customer relations manager for Sunny Valley International Inc., Glassboro, N.J.
“We have a Chilean grower who will start in latter part of October,” he said. “I’m hearing the processed market is a little bit strong, but that can change quickly. We play that week by week.”