Blueberries remain a popular product. In Latin America, great investments are still made in the cultivation of these berries. Chile is the market leader at this time of the year, but Peru has the ambition to become the world's largest exporter in the next two years. Other countries also see opportunities in the product's export. North America remains a major destination for the fruit, but exports to Europe and Asia are also on the rise.
Chilean exports remain within estimated volumes
According to the latest report from the Chilean Blueberry Committee, exports recovered again in week 52 and reached 9,870 tons. The largest volume comes from Central Chile. This brings the total volume this season to 45,556 tons, which matches the initial predictions. Compared to the previous season, the harvest is 1.6% larger. According to the committee, the port strikes have not caused any problems in the export of the berries, because the exporters have used other ports. The wildfires reported have also not had any consequences for the blueberry harvest. Although fires were reported in a certain area, the harvest had already been completed there. A few weeks ago, several plantations were hit by hailstorms, but the hail had no negative impact on the total figures. A grower explains that the old varieties are being replaced for new varieties.
The 9,870 tons exported have been divided between North America (49%), Europe, (36%) and the Far East (15%). According to the report, the volume of organic blueberries is increasing. In week 52, 636 tons of organic berries were exported. In total, these exports amounted to 3,595 tonnes, or 39% more than in the same week of the previous season. Although North America remains the most important market, Europe also stands out. Compared to the previous season, volumes have doubled.
The biggest competitor for the Chilean exporters is Peru. For the time being, the seasons complement one another well. "Peru stops when Chile starts. Argentina and Colombia have smaller volumes and therefore do not pose a threat."
Argentina starts exporting to China
In November, the first kilos of blueberries were shipped by air to China. The sector is proud of that achievement. Last year, the US, the UK and Europe were the main destinations. Thanks to the efforts of the Argentinian government and the private sector, China has been added to the list. The season didn't last long after the shipment of the first blueberries. Traders hope to be able to increase exports to China with the start of the new season in August.
Peru wants to become the biggest exporter
The Peruvian season will come to a close as soon as Chile hits the market. Exports have grown rapidly over the past five years. According to ADEX Data Trade Commercial Intelligence System, exports between January and October last year increased by a factor of 23 compared to the same months of 2014. In 2014, exports were worth 16.7 million dollars. Four years later, that figure has grown to $ 381.1 million. In that same period, exports have increased by 54% compared to the previous year and amounted to 247.4 million dollars. This growth should continue. "We expect Peru to become the biggest blueberry exporter by 2021, surpassing Chile," said one exporter. According to the Peruvian ministry, Peru is currently in second place in the world rankings.
Between January and October, the US was the most important export market, accounting for 195 million dollars. The Netherlands (84 million dollars), the UK (35 million dollars), China (24 million dollars), Spain (16 million dollars) and Canada (10 million dollars) follow in the ranking. In order to continue growing, the sector must focus on the Asian market. The negotiations for a free trade agreement with India are perceived as a positive step.
Mexico is committed to extending the campaign
The soft fruit season kicked off in October and will last until May. The prospects are good, despite the delayed start. A trader says that a normal harvest is expected in Jalisco and Michoacan.
Like the US, Canada is an important export market. Exports also go to Europe and Asia. A trader tells us that new plantings are now becoming productive, so the volume will rise. The focus is on early and late varieties in order to extend the season. Exporters do notice that the production is increasing in other countries; as a result, it is becoming tougher to compete on the global market.
Colombia wants a place on the world market
Last year, a group of entrepreneurs decided it was time to start exporting blueberries. So far, the focus has been just on the domestic market. According to the people behind the initiative, the crop's cultivation has developed sufficiently for exports to start. Three large growing companies have joined forces and presented themselves at large fairs. With the positive reactions that followed, the companies hope to export more blueberries this year. The US, France, Spain, Italy and the UK have been identified as potential markets.
Guatemala has started exporting
For the first time, 13 containers were exported to the UK. "It is the first time that we have shipped to Europe and found an export market," says the exporter. In addition to Europe, the berries are also shipped to North America. In the past five years, much research has been done into the cultivation of blueberries. This has shown that year-round cultivation is possible in the Chimaltenango region.
South African cultivation is expanding
The season has come to a close. Only in George, South Cape, is the harvest still underway with the picking of the last blueberries of the Rabbiteye variety. The harvest peaks in the period between August and September/October. In the north of the country, the season finished in late October, while in the Western Cape (which accounts for 60% of the acreage) the harvest continued until the end of December. Thanks to an improvement of the water situation in the Cape, growers did not suffer from drought. The same cannot be said in the north of the country, where growers report water shortages. The crop's cultivation is expanding. Five years ago, the country still had 500 hectares devoted to blueberries; this year, the acreage has stood just under the 1,700 hectares.
US: Quiet market with stable prices
Although there are still some blueberries from Peru on the market, Chile is currently the main supplier. "Chile had a slow start, but now it has gained momentum and will keep a good pace in the coming weeks," says a trader. In contrast to last year, when Peru closed the season early, the fruit will remain on the market longer this year. A trader says that all this has to do with the good quality of the product. Mexico, like Chile, will start the season with a slight delay as a result of a cold period. Although North America remains the largest sales market for Chilean exporters, they also see a larger volume being shipped to Europe this year. Asia is a smaller market. Prices are stable this year and US supermarkets are making more room on the shelves for the berries.
Spanish extra early blueberry season delayed
The first batches of the extra early varieties are now being harvested in Huelva. The season started with a small delay due to the low temperatures. Normally, the campaign kicks off at the end of December. That is why the extra early and early blueberries will overlap in the market in late January. These are varieties such as the Snowchaser, Windsor and Emerald. Nevertheless, as far as the weather is concerned, the sector expects a normal season, because low temperatures in winter are often followed by a warm spring. Last year, Huelva had a cold spring while it was warm in the rest of Europe. As a result, Spain had a shorter export period.
The production will grow this year, while the acreage has been slightly reduced. This is due to the new plantings carried out four to five years ago, as those fields are now becoming fully productive. Chile currently exports by both air freight and sea freight. The largest volumes are expected by the end of the month. Spanish traders also have access to extra early Moroccan and Portuguese blueberries. Just like in Huelva, the harvest in those countries has been slightly delayed due to a cold period.
Italy has a stable market
The demand for blueberries remains stable year-round. According to a trader, there are no actual peak periods. An importer at the wholesale market in Padua says that they are currently importing blueberries from Chile and Uruguay. The berries from Peru, which are the last of the season, suffer some quality issues. Around the holidays, blueberries were delivered to major retailers and the catering industry at a price of 12 Euro per kilo. In the summer, when the domestic and European (Spain, Portugal, Poland) production is available, the prices are lower due to the large supply. Just after the turn of the year, the first blueberries from Morocco became available.
France: Popularity is slowly increasing
Compared to other European countries, the consumption of blueberries in France is lagging behind. However, traders believe that this is gradually changing. The main growing areas are in the Loire Valley, the Southwest and the Rhône-Alpes. The French season lasts from June to September. At this time, the blueberries are imported from the southern hemisphere. In the French market, a strong distinction is made between wild and cultivated blueberries.
Germany: Large supply, falling prices
After the Christmas holidays, blueberry prices have dropped slightly in the German market. The reference purchase price stands at around 6 Euro per kg, while trade prices currently oscillate between 7 and 8 Euro per kilo. In the month of December, the average price per kilo stood well above the 8 Euro, according to an importer. Chile is slowly taking over the baton from Peru. Chilean shipments arrived about 1 week earlier than last year, although the volume is expected to remain stable. Peru will likely disappear from the market by the end of the month. After that, Morocco will also take a share of the German market, according to expectations.
Overall, sales during the Christmas period have been highly satisfactory. Due to the large supply of Peruvian goods, the retail programs have been covered with ease across the board. There was only a small reduction in the volumes shipped by air. The trade with organic blueberries wasn't as successful; the supply in this case was moderate, as opposed to the demand.
Traders see some relevant long-term developments in the berry market. For example, Mexico is currently increasing its exports to Europe, while in the past it was almost exclusively focused on North America. According to traders, this could in time be an interesting alternative for Morocco and Spain, for example, if the harvest in these growing areas is not up to par. Another relevant trend within the German retail is the greater need for larger packaging units. In the past, the 12x125 gram formats were popular; now preferences are shifting towards the 12x300 grams. This has everything to do with the constantly growing sales.
The Netherlands: Large supply of Chilean blueberries
While the volume available was smaller in December, blueberries from Chile are now arriving in large numbers, according to a Dutch importer. Fortunately, the market is absorbing those volumes very well. The run-up to Christmas was extremely busy and now there are still many on-going promotions. At the moment, Chile holds a dominant position. From week 6, the Chilean volumes will fall back and Morocco will hit the market. Selling prices currently oscillate between 10.50 and 11 Euro for the berries packed in 12x125 gram clamshells. Qualitatively speaking, he says that the differences are quite noticeable and, in general, the shelf life of the Chilean product is reasonably short.
Chinese demand is rising ahead of the New Year
In recent years, the popularity of blueberries has been on the rise in China. Five years ago, the demand was still small, but now it has grown a lot. As in the case of avocados, growth has been taking place slowly as consumers have become more familiar with the product. China produces blueberries itself, but it is unable to do this all year round. Large volumes are therefore also imported from Peru and Chile. The blueberries from Peru arrived in August and September and those from Chile arrived in December. Blueberries are still being imported from Chile and now that the Chinese New Year is around the corner, the demand is increasing. The price for blueberries is also reasonably high at the moment.