Argentina has a friend in Europe. Blueberry suppliers in the U.S. said that they aren’t the only destination for Argentine product.
“They play a very, very important role for Argentina because Argentina is generally (early in the fall), and they can maintain a price that is generally good for them,” said Dave Bowe, owner of Dave’s Specialty Imports Inc., Coral Spring, Fla.
Europe also is a good alternate destination for Argentina berries because it does not have the fumigation requirements that the U.S. has, Bowe said.
“It goes by vessel, which is cheaper than the $5 per case that it costs to send by air to the U.S.,” Bowe said.
The U.S. is still the prime destination for Argentina blueberries, with about 60% of the country’s exports, but there are economic factors that can cause some fluctuation, said Bryan Ostlund, executive director of the Oregon Blueberry Commission, Salem.
“If the exchange rate is very favorable into Europe, they’ll try to maximize shipments into the European market, and we’ll get less, if that’s the case,” Ostlund said.
“They try to get to as many markets as they can.”
Europe generally gets a little over a third of Argentina’s exported blueberries, with most of that going to the United Kingdom, according to Ulises Sabato, owner of Blueberries SA in Buenos Aires, Argentina, and a partner in Fresh Results LLC in Weston, Fla.
Smooth, established customer relations also can play an important role, said Cindy Jewell, marketing director for California Giant Inc., Watsonville.
“I guess it depends on your customer base,” she said.
“If you have that established, it’s a natural sort of flow to go there, as well.”
Bobby Stokes, berry sales manager with Curry & Co. in Brooks, Ore., said Argentina does a strong business in Europe.
“It’s a very nice business they have with Europe,” he said. “That seems to be where most of their fruit goes.”
Cultural ties serve to enhance that business connection, said Janice Honigberg, president of Sun Belle Inc., Washington, D.C.
“Argentina is a very European-looking country. They have people from various parts of Europe, and they naturally look toward Europe as their market,” she said.
“They send a lot of berries to Europe, so it’s an important market.”
Bruce Turner, head of operations with Giumarra VBM International Berry LLC, Vernon, Calif., described Europe as a great market for Argentina’s blueberry industry.
“The returns are generally slightly better than the U.S. returns, but it does accept a finite volume,” Turner said. “Eighty percent of the volume from Argentina comes to the U.S., but Europe is a good market for returns to the grower.”
Argentina’s blueberry shipments to Europe can figure into blueberry volumes in the U.S., said Brian Bocock, vice president of product management for the Grand Junction, Mich., office of Naturipe Farms LLC, Naples, Fla.
“It’s a huge factor,” he said. “They can go to Europe on the boat and not have to fumigate or go through the cold treatment.”
But, Bocock said, there is a limit to what Europe will procure from Argentina.
“The problem is, while the population in Europe is about the same as North America, the per-capital consumption is not the same as in the U.S., so the marketplace opportunity is not the same as in North America on a consumption basis,” he said.