Because of the large U.S. crop, some prices were below the cost of the harvest, he said.
According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, on Sept. 9, flats of 12 1-pint cups medium-large blueberries from Michigan were shipping at $28.50-33; 6-ounce cups of mediums, $18.50-22.50.
That scenario shouldn’t affect the Argentina deal, though, because retailers know costs for imports go up, Roberts said.
In the U.S., most markets are only one to three days away from domestic production areas by truck, he said, compared with 5,000 miles away by air for Argentinean imports.
“Retailers understand that logistics drive higher costs during the winter time, and there is less production,” he said.
Tight supplies, but no loss of quality
Koukoulis was not confident volume out of Argentina would be as strong this season as last.
“I think the supply will be lucky to get to last year’s number,” he said.
The problems suffered by growers should not impact quality of exported berries, he said. Cull rates will be up, and unfit berries will be sent to processing.
“The package you’re going to see in the store will be outstanding,” he said.
The strong U.S. summer crop creates demand that bodes well for the import season, Roberts said.
“When it transitions from domestics to imports, even though costs go up, consumers will continue to consume blueberries if they were having a good experience with them,” he said.