Suppliers push huge Chilean blueberry crop

10/16/2009 09:55:00 AM
Abraham Mahshie

Chilean blueberry suppliers are projecting at least 30% more volume this year, but it will be absorbed into the marketplace only if high quality is maintained and pack sizes increase to a pint standard.

“I believe the big issue coming … as an industry is our ability to promote more and more pounds of blueberries that are being produced out of Chile,” said Mario Flores, blueberry product manager for Naturipe Farms LLC, Naples, Fla.

Courtesy Naturipe Farms LLC

Increased plantings and maturity of bushes have suppliers expecting a Chilean blueberry crop that could reach 123 million pounds, says Mario Flores, blueberry product manager for Naturipe Farms LLC, Naples, Fla.

Flores said the industry produced 91 million pounds of blueberries last year and 66 million pounds the year before.

“This year coming up it could be upwards of 123 million pounds of fresh blueberries,” he said, citing increased plantings and maturity of bushes that can double in production after their second year.

Janice Honigberg, president of Sun Belle Inc., Washington, D.C., said the vast majority — 84% — of total Chilean production was exported to the U.S. last year, and a similar percentage is expected this year, primarily from established fields.

“We are increasing our production particularly at the beginning and end of the season to have a consistent production curve,” she said.

Dave Bowe, owner of Dave’s Specialty Imports Inc., Coral Springs, Fla., agreed Chile is adding more weight to the trading relationship with the U.S. as winter blueberry competition grows worldwide.

“They are giving a lot of information to the United States and they are looking at the United States now more than they had in the past,” he said. “Other countries now are starting to grow and produce their own blueberries.”

Smooth transition

Increases in production in the growing area north of Santiago in particular, combined with air freighting at the start of the season, will help to line up the end of the Argentina deal with the start of Chile.

“Argentina will still be in its peak volume to the marketplace in November, and in the first part of December will fall off quite rapidly like they have been in the past,” Flores said.
“At this point, the trend is falling in a similar pattern with Chilean volume expected to hit in late December.”


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