Export markets like U.S. berries - The Packer

Export markets like U.S. berries

07/21/2011 11:14:00 AM
Dan Gailbraith

Many berry shippers send their products to foreign markets, but exactly where and how much they export varies from season to season, depending on market conditions.

Europe is a big market for Oregon blueberries, as are Canada, Mexico and China, said Brian Ostlund, executive director of the Salem-based Oregon Blueberry Commission.

Oregon growers also export to Japan and to a number of Asian markets, and they’re trying to develop a South Korea program, he said.

Export programs can help shippers extend their season, but freight costs, shelf life and other conditions affect volume each year, he said.

HBF International LLC, Sheridan, Ore., exports a lot of blueberries along with some gooseberries and blackberries, if the quality is right, said Doug Perkins, managing director.

The company ships currants primarily to Asia but also to Europe at certain times.

“We do quite a bit of exports throughout the year,” he said.

Shipments to Europe often are spot deals because Europe has its own production at the same time HBF is producing.

July is not a heavy export month for the company.

“We start seeing windows in August and start exporting to Europe at that time,” Perkins said.

Pack sizes are basically the same as they are in the U.S. for Asian customers, he said, while many European destinations prefer a 125-gram package. Customers in the United Kingdom seem to prefer the 150-gram pack, he said.

Summer is the best time for exports, said Dan Crowley, sales manager for Well-Pict Inc., Watsonville, Calif.

The company ships strawberries throughout the Pacific Rim and some to Europe, he said.

Well-Pict complements its strawberry export program with raspberries.

The firm’s export program has been steady, Crowley said. Export buyers often prefer specialty packs, including smaller packages, he said.

Exports are a tiny part of the volume for Sweet Darling Sales Inc., Watsonville, said general manager John Larse, but export volume seems to be on the rise.

“We’re exporting to Europe every day,” he said.

The company also exports strawberries to Japan.

Costco stores in the United Kingdom are major customers of California Giant Inc., Watsonville, said Cindy Jewell, director of marketing. But the company also exports strawberries to other European countries and into some Asian markets.

Although market conditions and freight costs affect the firm’s export volume, shipments abroad generally are consistent, she said in early July, “especially at this time of year.”

California Giant exports about 20% of its volume, including shipments to Canada, she said, adding that the company is trying to increase its exports.

There are some differences between strawberries shipped domestically and those that are exported, she said.

“(Export markets) like them lighter in color, so it definitely is a special pick,” she said.

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