Blueberry shipments from Chile could begin arriving earlier than usual this season, enhancing opportunities for winter holiday promotions.
Wish Farms, Plant City, Fla., expects to receive blueberries from Chile in late November, said Teddy Koukoulis, director of blueberry operations.
After a trip to Chile in late August, Koukoulis is convinced the deal could get off to an earlier start this year.
“I saw a lot of flowers, a lot of buds,” he said. “Then, I would have said it could be 10 days early.”
Cooler weather in the first half of September, however, could put the brakes on that rapid growth, he said.
Wish Farms’ Chilean volumes likely will be up about 50% this year, Koukoulis said. For the industry as a whole, however, volumes likely will be only slightly above last season, he said.
Chilean blueberries shipped by Chicago-based Sun Belle Inc. were beginning to arrive in Asia in limited volumes the week of Oct. 8, said Janice Honigberg, the company’s president.
Production was running on time in Chile’s region IV in early October, said Honigberg, who expects a smooth transition from Argentinean to Chilean product in the U.S. this year.
“It should dovetail very well,” she said.
Chile’s central growing area should begin should begin producing in good volume by the end of November or beginning of December, Honigberg said.
“This volume is somewhat dispersed, since some of it comes in by air during the first half of December up until Christmas, and some comes in by boat in late December,” she said.
Chile’s southern growing area should have good volume at the end of January and early February, helping to ensure promotable U.S. volumes through February.
Weather-wise, the Chilean winter was milder than expected, Honigberg said. There were, however, enough cold hours for fruit to mature properly.
“Fruit set is excellent, and it looks like there will be very good size, generally speaking,” Honigberg said.
There likely won’t be enough fruit for big Christmas promotions, Honigberg said, but there should be enough to promote for New Year’s.
Sun Belle plans to increase production of new blueberry varieties in Chile this year, Honigberg said.
Larger volumes of stars, jewels and emeralds are expected in the northern growing areas, while the central and southern regions will see greater production of the legacy variety, she said.
Up to 10 days early
The Chilean blueberry harvest typically starts in early December, with the first significant arrivals in the U.S. and Canada just after Christmas, said Tom Tjerandsen, managing director for North America for the Chilean Fresh Fruit Association, Sonoma, Calif.