One, he said, is improved logistics, to reduce costs getting the product to U.S. ports. The second possible solution is to increase per-acre yields.
Air freight isn’t a complete disadvantage, however, said Janice Honigberg, president of Sun Belle Inc., Washington, D.C.
“The disadvantage is it’s probably limited the desire to ship by boat, which, of course, means that most rely on air freight, which means higher cost,” she said.
“On the other hand, it means that the product is in fresher condition, which is a good thing.”
Shelf life is a big consideration, she added.
“There are shippers who bring product from Argentina by boat, but it’s three weeks on the water and, by the time the volume starts, you’ll have some overlap with Chile,” she said.
Most of Chile’s product has traditionally arrived by boat, but last year, that changed a bit, Honigberg said.
“Last year, more of Chile’s berries were air-freighted,” she said.
How product is shipped often is determined by the elements, Honigberg said.
“There was a time in February where there was frequent rain and we felt a lot of fruit wouldn’t be in good condition on the shelf,” she said.
“We opted to go almost 100% air, and we were one of the only one who was air-freighting. When others sent by boat, it wasn’t in very good condition, and they had to get low prices. We had already sold ours.
“It’s not a good idea to assume that all Chilean blueberries are adequate for boat shipping every week.”
Why is Argentina under requirements that don’t apply to Chile?
Geography, said Bruce Turner, head of operations with Giumarra VBM International Berry LLC in Vernon, Calif.
“They’re separated by 17,000-foot mountains, and the pest risk is different in Chile versus Argentina,” Turner said.
“It’s dramatically different. There’s not a trade issue. It’s strictly the USDA (U.S. Department of Agriculture inspectors) doing their job.”