Blueberry demand strong through December
November 27, 2014

Import blueberry markets should remain strong through December, and port woes on the West Coast could add more pressure.blues11

Watsonville, Calif.-based California Giant Berry Farms was transitioning from two South American countries to a third in mid-November, said Jerry Connery, the company’s blueberry category manager.

The week of Nov. 17, Cal Giant was winding down its Argentinian and Uruguayan deals and bringing in its first Chilean fruit of the season, Connery said.

Cal Giant expected vessel arrivals from Chile on Dec. 3, Dec. 5 and Dec. 7.

Salinas, Calif.-based Naturipe Farms LLC expects to ship Argentinian blueberries well into December, but volumes will decline weekly and are lower because of late-season rains in the country, said Brian Bocock, vice president of product management.

Chilean fruit will arrive largely by air until vessel arrivals take over, Bocock said. Some boat shipments will arrive in December, but the “big switch” from air to sea won’t likely happen until the end of December or beginning of January.

By Nov. 21, Coral Springs, Fla.-based Dave’s Specialty Imports Inc. had already received several air shipments from Chile, and the company expected its first vessel the week of Nov. 24, said Mike Bowe, vice president.

“Argentina is winding down quickly and Chile is falling right into place,” Bowe said.

Cal Giant also expected a smooth transition between its South American deals.

“There’s not much of an overlap at all,” Connery said Nov. 21. “We got a little short at the end of this week.”

Even with slightly higher weekly volumes than last year at this time, movement has been brisk, Connery said.

“Demand’s been very good, and I don’t see it coming off much until the middle or end of December.”

Good quality from all three South American countries was helping drive that demand, Connery said.

“The quality from Argentina was excellent — we never had any problems. Uruguay also was very good. And I haven’t heard of a lot of rain in most of the Chilean regions.”

Bocock also reported good quality on early-season Chilean fruit.

Industry-wide volumes will likely be down through the end of the year, due to the rains in Argentina and higher air freight rates out of Chile, Bocock said. As a result, pint sales won’t likely take off until after Christmas.

“Pricing will remain strong. It will be a 6-ounce marketplace” until late December or early January, Bocock said. “But there will be good opportunities at the right price point to promote 6-ounce packs for Christmas.”


The Packer