Argentina faces numerous challenges in the blueberry marketplace, but perhaps none as daunting as Peru.
“Peru will certainly bring new challenges to both Argentina and Uruguay,” said Luciano Fiszman, blueberry category manager for Los Angeles-based Gourmet Trading Co.
Good volumes are expected out of Argentina during the upcoming season, which should get underway in late September and run through December, and Argentina will be competitive, said Richard Doyle, director of business development for retail at Miami-based Crystal Valley Foods.
However, Peru generally has an edge in weather, as well as volume, he said.
“Peru’s going to be one step ahead of our estimates,” Doyle said.
Peru also will have plenty of berries, Doyle said.
“That will lead to some good choices and nice varieties, solid fruit,” he said.
Weather and climate issues give Peru an advantage over Argentina, said Eric Crawford, president of Sunrise, Fla.-based Fresh Results LLC.
“That’s what’s really given rise to Peru, because at least the perception is Peru doesn’t have a lot of volatile weather,” he said.
Tom Richardson, vice president of global development for Giumarra International Berry, Vernon, Calif., a division of the Los Angeles-based Giumarra Cos., agreed that Peru has some natural advantages allowing it to “overtake” Argentina’s production volume.
“They have weather conditions and water and a lot of available land that’s suitable for growing blueberries, and the window of September through early December has historically been one of the higher-priced selling windows of the year, and that’s why Peruvians have focused production in this timing,” Richardson said.
Peru is expected to more than double its blueberry output from a year ago, which will affect markets, Doyle said.
“It will have somewhat of an impact on pricing, but some people like the Argentina fruit. We have a big, loyal following.”
Last year, Peru shipped about 44 million pounds of blueberries and could reach 88 million pounds this year, Crawford said. Argentina’s volume last season was around 39.7 million pounds.
“I’ve seen it as low as 12 million kilograms (26.5 million pounds) on a bad year, with weather events,” Crawford said.
Chile, whose blueberry deal generally starts around the time Argentina’s is winding down, dominates South American production, at around 220 million pounds, Crawford said, though Chile does have some greenhouse-grown berries during Argentina’s window.
Uruguay is considered the little guy in South America, Giumarra’s Richardson said.
“Uruguay is a much smaller player and has been there a long time, but it’s about 10% of what Argentina historically is,” Richardson said.
Mexico has big blueberry production, but the timing is more during the Chilean window, Crawford said.
South Africa is a growing competitor in the blueberry marketplace, as well, Crawford said, with current annual volumes between 11 million and 17.6 million pounds.
“It’s small, but it’s going to develop quickly,” Crawford said, noting that South Africa has been marketing its berries globally for only about five years.
Crawford said Argentina’s chief competitor now is Peru, with South Africa looming on the horizon.
Argentina’s blueberry production generally has been steady in recent years, which works to its advantage, said Brian Bocock, vice president of product management with Salinas, Calif.-based Naturipe Farms.
“The industry volume forecast for this year is a bit larger volume than years prior,” he said.