Chilean Blueberry Committee executive director Andrés Armstrong says export volumes this season will likely be very similar to last year’s figures, but the campaign just underway started a bit slow.
“What we’ve seen to date, and we’re just at the start of the season, is that we’re a bit later than we’d expected,” he told Fresh Fruit Portal.
“Weather conditions were normal compared to historic averages. Yes, we’re later compared to last year but last year was one of the earliest seasons we’ve had.”.
Armstrong said shipments should be more in line with a normal year within the coming weeks, with a season total forecast of 102,000 metric tons (MT) for fresh blueberry exports.
“Our fresh blueberry export estimate is a very similar number to last year, which was very high, given a productive increase on the one hand but there was also fruit that went from frozen to fresh because of the pricing situation in the frozen category,” Armstrong said.
In frozen blueberries the country is set to produce 35,000-40,000MT worth of product this season, according to the executive.
He said the United States and Canada would continue to be the leading markets for fresh Chilean blueberries, having received a combined total of 66% of volume last season, followed by Europe with 22% and Asia with 12%.
Promotional activities for Blueberries from Chile also started off recently across different Northern Hemisphere markets in collaboration with ProChile, including the first program of its kind launched in China last week.
Armstrong pointed to a varietal shift toward blueberries with higher productivity and better shelf life in response to increasing competitiveness in the sector.
“There has been productive development allowing for growth in markets like Asia, which last season represented 12% of our exports while the previous season it was 9% and six years ago it didn’t even reach 3%,” he said.
He highlighted India as the most recent country to allow access for fresh blueberries from Chile, emphasizing that an official protocol would be established soon so the campaign can hopefully get started this year.
“India implies a series of logistical challenges, both in terms of getting there and at the distribution and commercialization level within the country. Retail isn’t so developed and nor are the cold chains,” he said.
“Indian importers are starting to prepare themselves to offer the right conditions for fruit like blueberries, which require particular care so that the product is optimal from the point of view of the consumer and they want to repeat the purchasing experience.”
Organic market development
Armstrong said the committee was also monitoring shipments of organic blueberries, a category that is increasingly seeing more demand in overseas markets.
“The start of our exports, while they are very early as the season has advanced just 1%, show, shows that 40% of the exported total to date is organic,” he said.
He said the main market for organic blueberries is the United States, while the category is increasing in Europe and is still very incipient in Asia.
“Our exports of organic blueberries are developing both in fresh and frozen,” he said.