Argentine blueberry crop bounces back

09/15/2009 02:08:11 PM
Abraham Mahshie

Despite a moderate September freeze, early season blueberry suppliers from Argentina are counting on a strong season and considerable recovery over last year’s deal.

Dave Bowe, owner of Dave’s Specialty Imports, Inc., Coral Springs, Fla., is counting on “much, much, much more” volume this year than 2008, which was ravaged by disastrous freezes in multiple growing areas.

Though he notes another spring freeze is still possible, he is optimistic about this year’s early deal from the northern Argentine province of Tucuman, which will produce ahead of the largest growing region, Concordia, by about two weeks.

“Last year, the frost very seriously affected volume,” he said, adding cold temperatures should cause a delay of two weeks this year.

Marcelo Estrada, a freelance produce marketer based in Miami, agreed Tucuman is doing very well this year, noting that warm weather following the frost will help push forward the plantations and speed up production.

“Tucuman is about ten days earlier than Concordia, and in terms of kilometers you have to think something about 1,000 kilometers northeast of Concordia, meaning that it is the continental area, so it is even hotter,” he said, noting that he had recently visited to view the crops. “The bottom line is not the crop this year. It is the financial situation of the growers.”

Janice Honigberg, president of Sun Belle Inc., Washington, D.C., said the freeze will cause delays up to 30 days in some northern areas of Tucuman, but that it will not significantly hurt the advantageous window the early deal enjoys.

“It’s quite fine because the North American and European domestic deals are winding down by mid-September, so it’s not a bad time to start,” she said. “Unfortunately, in the last two years, production has been 30-45 days late, causing huge delays in starting because of freezing and cold temperatures.”

Honigberg noted that Concordia is also running between 10 days and two weeks late.

Bowe said despite concerns the growers face significant troubles after last year’s deal, their level of development demonstrates staying power.

“Tucuman has been around for a long, long, long time, but the growers who have noticed that they are the first created their own farms,” he said. “There are many farms with decent volumes now. They have gone through the planting and it has taken a few years to have some berries, and have multiplication.”

Overall, the result will be “much heavier volume than last year,” he said.



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