American importers of Chilean blueberries expect strong demand this season.
An expected orderly transition from Argentina to Chile bodes well for demand for Chilean fruit in the U.S., said Brian Bocock, vice president of product management in the Grand Junction, Mich., office of Naples, Fla.-based Naturipe Farms LLC.
“Argentina should peak in November and wind down the first week of December,” Bocock said. “Chile won’t have any real volume until the first week of November. I think it will go pretty smoothly.”
Some holiday promotions
Volumes should be there for some Christmas promotions, Bocock said, but for the most part retailers won’t begin marketing aggressively until after New Year’s Day.
“In January and February they’ll want to promote, promote, promote,” he said.
Teddy Koukoulis, director of blueberry operations for Wish Farms, Plant City, Fla., also expects a good transition to Chilean blueberry production, with good demand when Chile ramps up in December.
One key for Wish Farms is the company’s Argentinean deal does not include production from the growing regions around Buenos Ares, Koukoulis said. The late-season Buenos Ares deals often overlap with early-season Chilean production.
“We think (the transition) will be really smooth,” Koukoulis said. “We don’t have tremendous overlap in quantity.”
Cindy Jewell, director of marketing for California Giant Inc., Watsonville, Calif., said the pipeline was emptier than usual in late September, with California and British Columbia shipping less than usual at the tail ends of their deals.
That bodes well for demand for Chilean and Argentinean imports, she said.
“People are asking for it. Retailers like to get fruit from new regions. It generates excitement,” she said.
Tom Tjerandsen, managing director for North America for the Chilean Fresh Fruit Association, Sonoma, Calif., also looks forward to a good transition from Argentina to Chile, though it was a little too early to tell for sure.
“Argentina is also running about two weeks early,” he said. “It’s not clear yet when they will stop harvesting, but there is a good chance for an orderly and seamless supply arriving in North American markets.”
Good start to season
Andres Armstrong, general manager of the Chilean Blueberry Committee, Santiago, said Chile should follow Argentina’s lead, creating an orderly marketing environment for the beginning of the U.S. export season.
“Chile is expected to begin early also, having a smooth transition,” Armstrong said.
Nolan Quinn, berry category director for The Oppenheimer Group, Vancouver, British Columbia, said while markets weren’t where South American shippers wanted them to be in mid-September, he expected a good beginning to the season.
Demand for processed blueberries will influence how strong demand for fresh blueberries is, said Tom Richardson, general manager in the Wenatchee, Wash., office of Los Angeles-based The Giumarra Cos.
“The frozen market will be a factor this year in what goes fresh,” Richardson said. “Whenever there’s a strong market for processed, it tends to take volume out of fresh.”
While it’s still too soon to tell for sure, Richardson said 2012-13 could shape up to be a strong year for fresh.
“Some of the early information we’re hearing is that prices (for processed blueberries) are a bit lower than last year,” he said. “So, if you assume the crops are about the same size, you would expect more to go to the fresh market.”