The South American blueberry season has commenced with mixed results for different source regions. While Argentina has had a slow start, Peru is enjoying good conditions and solid shipments. Argentina has been besieged by cold and damp weather, which has delayed maritime shipments to the US. Suppliers are currently air-freighting Argentine blueberries into North America before more significant volumes start arriving by ship.
"Air shots from Argentina have begun with maritime shipments due to arrive shortly," said Evan Pence of Dole Berry Company. "The start of the season has seen some pretty inclement weather with rain and hail resulting in a slow start. Because of this weather, ocean shipments have been delayed. Blueberries are currently coming in by air to JFK, where they are sent to Wilmington for packaging and distribution."
There are no such problems in Peru, where Pence noted that shipments have already been arriving. "Peru has enjoyed good, steady weather and berries have been arriving into both Philadelphia and Long Beach," he said.
With the slow start to the Argentine season, combined with the fact that the US domestic season finished earlier than usual due to the heat, supplies have been strained and prices are strong. Growers in Argentina who have berries on hand are being encouraged to ship them before more significant volumes start to flow.
"The market has been fantastic," Pence observed. "It has been much better than expected and prices have been very strong. We should see increased volumes by week 42 so we are encouraging Argentine growers to ship while the market is strong."
Additional production being absorbed by Pacific markets
This year, production of blueberries in South America is set to increase. This is good news for consumers and the market should not be too concerned either, with increased demand from Pacific Rim countries helping to absorb that extra volume.
"South American production is expected to increase this year and they have also found new markets, especially in Asia," Pence explained. "Pacific Rim countries like China are absorbing much of the new production, much to the relief of the North American market. It means that the US won't have to shoulder the burden of the increase in supply and potentially be flooded."
"Every year we are seeing phenomenal growth in the category," he continued. "Additionally, we are getting better each year, with improved availability and flavor profiles, providing customers with greater consistency in the quality of the product."
Berries on display at PMA
Dole Berry Company will be exhibiting at PMA Fresh Summit and are encouraging visitors to stop by their booth. Pence said they will have their berry range on display and be available to discuss the various berry programs they offer.
"We are looking forward to meeting everybody at PMA," he said. "We are encouraging visitors to come by booth #2943 and talk about our berries."