Argentina blueberry suppliers count on strong showing - The Packer

Argentina blueberry suppliers count on strong showing

09/15/2009 02:25:52 PM
Abraham Mahshie

Thanks to good weather and maturing blueberry bushes, Argentina suppliers are counting on a strong showing this year despite reports that last year’s troubled season caused many growers to go out of business.

“What Argentina and Chile are doing are providing our customers with a continuous supply of blueberries that fills a year-round product,” said Mike Hollister, vice president of sales and marketing at Driscoll Strawberry Associates Inc., Watsonville, Calif. “Argentina typically starts a new crop that complements the winding down of the North American supply.”

Hollister said the Argentine deal, which is concentrated in October and November and winds down in December, has the important role of bringing “new fresh blueberries” to the marketplace.

Hollister expects Driscoll to have twice as much supply as previous years thanks to new growers participating and maturing fields in Tucuman, Entre Rios (site of Concordia) and Buenos Aires provinces.

Dave Bowe, owner of Dave’s Specialty Imports Inc., Coral Springs, Fla., said he expects double volumes if weather remains good, though he warns of too much volume.

“Anything that’s going to grow is going to double what it did last year,” he said. “Now you’re going to get to the point where somebody is going to go out of business because you’re going to have too much.”

Keith Mixon, president and chief executive officer of SunnyRidge Farm Inc., Winter Haven, Fla., said he expects export volume this year from Argentina to be about 25 million pounds, which is similar to last year.

“Weather has been similar to last year and the crop is on track with quality and volumes. We are looking forward to a great year,” he said, while adding that the risk of spring frost still exists.

Janice Honigberg, president of Sun Belle Inc., Washington, D.C., said her Sun Belle Argentina manager similarly reported projections of 26.4 million pounds of fresh exports if pricing remains viable for producers.

“Last year, there was export of 11,035,145 kg (24.3 million pounds.) Of this, 7,434,022 (16.4 million pounds) were exported to the U.S. This 11 million kg (24.2 million pounds) quantity would certainly have been larger but volumes were curtailed as prices dipped,” she said. Clarifying that overall volume from Argentina will not be double, Honigberg said, “Though larger, this is hardly double the volume from last season.”

Honigberg said the growing area has shrunk this year, down by 500 hectares from the 3,800 hectares in production for last year’s deal.

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