Don’t expect new Chilean blueberry varieties to be shipping in volume in the immediate future, importers say.
Because of the wide geographical diversity among Chile’s blueberry growing regions, the country’s growers are able to grow a much wider variety of blueberries than in, say, a top U.S.-growing region like New Jersey, said Nolan Quinn, berry category director for Vancouver, British Columbia-based The Oppenheimer Group.
“In New Jersey you have dukes, blues, elliots,” Quinn said. “The sheer number of varieties in Chile is significantly more.”
In addition to those three U.S. standbys, Chilean growers grow stars, o’neals and other varieties, Quinn said.
Despite the profusion of varieties, Quinn said he doesn’t see new Chilean varieties on the immediate horizon.
“Growers continue to trial new varieties in small batches, but the trials take a long time. Then it takes them a long time to grow,” he said.
Varietal experimentation has been more prevalent recently in Argentina than in Chile, said Mike Bowe, vice president of Dave’s Specialty Imports Inc., Coral Springs, Fla.
“I was in Argentina about a month ago, and a couple of growers were changing out some older varieties,” Bowe said.
It won’t affect production much this year, Bowe said, but next season the new varieties should begin producing in some volume.
“Guys are looking to stay ahead of the curve,” he said. “They’re doing some different things that we’re taking a hard look at.”
For Argentina, that means keeping up with the growth of the blueberry industry in Mexico and Peru.
“Argentina is tough — they have to fly everything in,” Bowe said. “They’re getting a little more competition from Mexico and Peru. Mexico and Peru are becoming more organized and efficient at what they’re doing.”
What the Mexican and Peruvian production boosts could mean for Chile, Bowe said, is a tighter focus.
“Chile will maybe be in a better position to ship from December to April,” he said. “It takes away Chile in November a bit.”
With Mexico and Peru increasing blueberry acreage, Latin America is starting to resemble the U.S. more, with one production area following closely on the heels of another.
Duke, misty and jewel are among the many blueberry varieties Dave’s Specialty Imports sources from Chile, Bowe said.
Varieties vary depending on the growing area, Bowe said. In southern Chile, for example, the company’s grower partners stick to more durable varieties that can thrive with abundant chill hours.