The September frost that damaged many Chilean commodities isn’t expected to keep overall blueberry volume down.
In fact, the Chilean Blueberry Committee estimates 93,000 tons to be exported, up 7% from a year ago.
“Overall, blueberries as a whole survived this very cold start much better than other commodities in the same growing regions,” said Mario Flores, director of blueberry product management for Naples, Fla.-based Naturipe Farms LLC.
“Beginning early December, the blueberry production should be back on track with good promotable volumes in the market place by early to mid-January.”
Naturipe is one company that expects to see a spike in volume. Last year, Hortifrut — one of the partners in Naturipe — merged with Santiago-based Vital Berry, bringing together the two biggest blueberry exporters in South America.
The deal was announced in October 2012, but Vital Berry still had its own packaging supplies to exhaust. That means this will be the first full season the companies will move their massive volume under the Naturipe label, marketing manager Kyla Garnett said.
Flores said the late freeze affected a large proportion of the northern half of Chile’s central valley and the surrounding areas of Santiago. It also affected much of the early blueberry production, resulting in a decrease in volume in October and early November.
“The market has already experienced the spike in October, with prices 30% to 50% higher than last year for the same period,” Flores said. “Now with more volumes arriving into the market entering November, the market price has settled back down, but still expecting blueberries from Argentina and Chile by air to still be 15% to 25% above last year for most of November.”
The USDA had not established a price for Chilean blueberries as of Nov. 13. Flats of 12 4.4-ounce cups with lids arriving in Miami from Argentina were $16. Similar product imported from Uruguay was also $16.
Flores said Nov. 4 that Chilean production should increase the last two weeks in November when harvest begins in Curico and Chillan on early southern highbush varieties.
Flores, who said supplies typically last into April, said quality of early shipments has been excellent.
He said Naturipe should have “great volumes on organic blueberries” with promotable volumes from late January through mid-February.
Garnett said Naturipe plans to support retailers with in-store demonstrations, recipes and social media promotions.
“Helping retailers display a complete berry patch — offering customers a full array of fresh blueberries, strawberries, raspberries, blackberries and cranberries — is the best way to support the category as well as create purchase intent,” she said.
Naturipe also is offering Chilean blueberries in its branded Berry Quick products, 1.5-ounces of blueberries in modified atmosphere packaging that provides a three-week shelf life.
“The quality of fruit this year is excellent, and our transportation has been streamlined for both ocean and air freight,” Garnett said. “We are excited about this growing, value-added category and being able to continue our year-round offering of Ready to Eat blueberries.”