South American blueberries wind down, Mexico and Florida gear up
March 28, 2022

Supplies of blueberries are tight currently.

On imported product, Peruvian and Chilean fruit is still on the market. “Though it is marginal volume and the quality is below average unfortunately,” says Luciano Fiszman of Redondo Beach, CA-based Gourmet Trading Co. However, Mexico is on its peak production weeks with good quality fruit at the moment with the majority of the product coming from Jalisco.

Domestically, some small production is starting up in Florida but the Southeast is slow in ramping up.

All told, this scenario is similar to last year at this time. “We are experiencing delays out of South East but not very different to last year. Mexico is almost a mirror with last year with a slight increase. The end of the South American season was difficult last year too,” Fiszman says.

Eye on quality
Quality is a tipping point on fruit though. “The quality from Mexico and Florida has nothing to do with the tired crop out of South America at this point. Some buyers going for cost and some others going for quality. Hard to get both this time in the year,” he says.

As for demand, Fiszman notes that the larger retail chains are absorbing the majority of the volume right now. “Demand is better compared to what it has been last several weeks. This is due to a better quality product in my opinion,” he says. “We expect a good Spring season in terms of consumption. Customers love a good piece of blueberry and we are trending to see very good product next few months.”

What is a bit of a question mark right now are pack sizes. “The market is trying to understand what is the right format again now that people are going back to school and offices,” says Fiszman. “During the pandemic the small formats were mostly changed for bigger formats. Now that paradigm is somewhat under discussion. I prefer the 18oz clamshell hands down. The market will find its preference too.”

Pricing up on blueberries

Where this has left pricing is it’s recently increased given customers are showing they’re willing to pay more for good product. “That is the best part. And customers may not want to pay for quality they dislike,” he says. “That is one of the toughest part of this job. The market still needs to find ways to move the various qualities out there. But with Chile fading away and more Mexican and domestic fruit coming in place, the market is getting more attractive to sell blueberries and then you see a rebound on price.”

Looking ahead, the volume out of Mexico is stable though peak is varied: while some fields are on peak right now, others have passed it or are coming up to it still. “Jalisco is where most fruit is coming from. Sinaloa comes right behind it. Baja is also pushing some fruit,” says Fiszman. “Florida also will have more fruit in the weeks to come. However the peak will be pretty flat this year due to the last few months' weather and growing conditions. the price may stay similar to where it is for another two weeks and after Easter it may ease a bit.”