Large Chilean blueberry crop expected

10/27/2010 04:56:32 PM
Andy Nelson

Volumes will likely be up significantly this season out of Chile, thanks to new bushes coming into heavier production, Ritchart said.

Plenty of supply

Watsonville, Calif.-based California Giant Inc. received its first shipment of blueberries from northern Chile the week of Oct. 11, said Joe Barsi, the company’s director of business development.

Volumes are expected to peak in January and February, with promotable quantities expected during both months, Barsi said.

An estimated 65,000 tons of blueberries are expected from Chile this year, 30% more than last season’s total of 50,000 tons, Barsi said.

Growers have reported favorable growing weather for the 2010-11 season, he said.

“The spring has been mild, so we are anticipating good quality,” he said.

The deal is expected to wind down about April 1, though it was too soon to tell for sure, Barsi said.

“It all depends on how Chile ends and North America begins,” he said.

Naples, Fla.-based Naturipe Farms LLC received its first shipment of Chilean blueberries the week of Oct. 11, and Jim Roberts, the company’s vice president of sales, said volumes would increase weekly until a likely peak in the second half of December.

“It’s a little late compared to what we initially projected and compared to a regular season,” Roberts said.

Still, as he pointed out, it’s a lot earlier than last season, when Naturipe’s Chilean deal didn’t peak until the end of January.

A combination of more acreage and higher yields would likely produce a crop 25% to 30% bigger than last year’s, Roberts said.

New bushes, he said, are “really spitting out a lot of fruit now.”

Light air shipments of Chilean blueberries from the country’s northern growing region began arriving for Watsonville-based Driscoll Strawberry Associates Inc. in mid-October, said John Johnston, the company’s director of blueberry product management.

But it will be a couple months, Johnston said, before Driscoll begins shipping in volume.

“We will have good supplies in the month of December,” he said.

Shipments will likely wind down with end of the southern Chile deal in mid-April, Johnston said. Like most other importers, Driscoll expects volumes to be up significantly in 2010-11.

Johnston credits Mother Nature with the anticipated boost.

“We expect production to be up considerably from last year due to more favorable weather conditions,” he said.


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