Growers in Peru have significantly ramped up their production of blueberries, but opinions vary on how much of an impact that will have on Chile’s blueberry program.
The good news for Chilean growers is that any competition from Peru should be limited to the early part of the season — October into January.
Peruvian blueberry growers are expected to produce 40,000 to 45,000 metric tons of blueberries during the 2017-18 season, according to Miguel Bentin, president of Valle & Pampa, a blueberry grower in Ica, Peru, and president of Proarandanos, the Peruvian Blueberry Growers Association.
That’s a major increase from the 1,500 metric tons produced during the 2013-14 season and even significantly higher than the 26,000 metric tons produced during the 2016-17 season.
“After a period of trial and local know-how development, Peru has seen an important opportunity to grow in the blueberry category,” Bentin said.
The growth in blueberry plantings is “a natural move toward a more diverse portfolio of commodities with a good perspective in the global market,” he said.
Historically, the U.S. has received more than half of Peru’s exported blueberries, but with the opening of the Chinese market, that share probably will be closer to 40%, he said.
“Without a doubt,” Peru will have an impact on Chile, said Jason Fung, director of category development for The Oppenheimer Group, Vancouver, British Columbia.
“Whenever you see such a significant amount of volume go into the ground in such a short period of time, that is going to undoubtedly impact the market,” he said.
Most of the competition from Peru will be with early Chilean berries that are delivered to the U.S. by air, said Mario Flores, director of blueberry product management for Naturipe Farms LLC, Salinas, Calif.
Chilean growers may choose to send their fruit by boat later in the season rather than compete during the peak of the Peruvian season, he said. But the impact shouldn’t be too great this year.
“As long as Peruvian production is primarily in the fall, it won’t have much of an effect for this season,” Flores said. “We’ll just have to see how things develop in the years to come.”
Peruvian volume is “growing by leaps and bounds,” said Robert Von Rohr, director of customer relations for Sunny Valley International Inc., Glassboro, N.J.
“Thankfully, their peak and our peak don’t coincide,” he said. “That may change over the years.”
Peruvian blueberries may have their biggest effect on the Argentina program, said Mike Bowe, president and owner of Dave’s Specialty Imports, Coral Springs, Fla.
“They put a little bit of a crunch on our friends in Argentina,” he said, “because they would typically start the first part of October.”