The organic category is small, but it’s growing, according to the Argentinean Blueberry Committee.
“Argentina’s organic volume, although incipient, has a very good projection,” said Carlos Stabile, ABC treasurer and project manager with Buenos Aires-based Extraberries SA, along with Fernando Skiarsky, ABC member and president of Berries del Plata SA.
“This year, organic blues would be around 1,000 tons, so that would mean 5.5% of the overall volume,” they said. “The U.S. and Canada are, by far, the most important markets for organics.”
Argentina’s Tucaman region has organic production, said Luciano Fiszman, blueberry category manager with Los Angeles-based Gourmet Trading Co.
Many of the berries coming from those fields go through cold-treatment and are shipped over water to the U.S., Fiszman said.
That’s not an easy process.
“It is interesting but hard to grow them and ship product so far by vessel,” he said. “(However), there are successful growers doing it.”
Delivering organic blueberries from Argentina to the U.S. is an issue for Argentina, said Eric Crawford, president of Fort Lauderdale, Fla.-based Fresh Results LLC.
Fumigation is not allowed for organic product, Crawford said.
“Coming into the U.S., blueberries have to be fumigated or cold-treated, so some of the blueberry growers have become creative and are using the Port of Chile to ship from for cold treating. ...”
The drawback in getting organic to the U.S. is the time required, Crawford said.
“Cold treatment requires a certain number of days,” he said. “The challenge is to get fruit to the U.S. in good quality. ...”
It’s being done, and increasingly so, each year, Crawford said.
But organic blueberry volumes out of Argentina aren’t likely to grow dramatically, mostly due to the hurdles involved, Crawford said.
“Argentina is not a great country to grow organic blueberries — too much rain; you have to use fungicides and pesticides,” he said.
The demand for organic blueberries from Argentina justifies any increase in shipments, said Brian Bocock, vice president of product management with Salinas, Calif.-based Naturipe Farms.
The category is trending up, he said.
In fact, Naturipe is increasing its organic program from Argentina this year, although Bocock did not specify how much.
Giumarra International Berry, Vernon, Calif., a division of Los Angeles-based The Giumarra Cos., brings in a “reasonably large volume of organic product” from Argentina, said Tom Richardson, vice president of global development.
“Like all organics, it’s trending steadily upward,” he said.