December could see gap between Peruvian and Chilean blueberries

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Supplies of Peruvian blueberries are good right now, though next month could see a tight market.

“The supply chain from Peru has been pretty fluid from the beginning of October until now. I believe there was an increase in containers that came in and the market is finally stable. Right now there’s a lot of supply around,” says Joshua Minton of Frank Donio Inc. based in Hammonton, NJ.

Generally speaking, Peruvian crops are usually shipped from September to December and will continue to grow every year. “The fruit on the bush is getting more and more mature, and the yield is getting bigger,” Minton said. “This year we saw some very large, firm, and delicious Ventura blueberries on the market, usually varieties that no one likes.” Now that the transportation has moved to the Biloxi and Jade varieties, Peru will complete the Atlas varieties. “Peru has become a powerful country and can ship its blueberries for a long time.”

December blueberries
In fact, some growers this year may ship past December. Last season, Peru shipped into the early parts of February and some even pushed into March. “Peru doesn’t want to compete with Chile who has a peak in January and February with a price that’s stable but a bit lower,” said Minton. That compares to the higher pricing Peru generally sees in September and October when domestic supplies have largely wrapped up. “But this year we’re hearing there are limited volumes coming out currently so December will be a potentially tight market with a potential gap between Peru and Chile,” says Minton.

In the meantime, Chile has started with some production in the high Northern regions. “But they’re mainly going to start coming in around week 1 with some larger volumes,” says Minton.

As for demand, Minton notes it’s similar to last year and has been strong throughout the Peruvian deal. “There’s a lot of movement going on. When volume is up 30 percent and movement hasn’t slowed down at all, this speaks to the retailers who’ve been able to put out ads quicker to that nature,” he says.

More room for blueberries
In the past two to three weeks, a dip in California strawberry supplies and quality thanks to its recent rains means there’s also been more room for blueberries on the shelves. “But we hear Mexico is coming with strawberries. If that happens, store shelves will have less space for blueberries. But blueberries are eaten daily by American consumers so I don’t think demand will slow down. It will be about space on the shelf,” says Minton

To meet that general demand, Frank Donio itself is looking adds to its organics program. While it currently offers conventional pints and 6 oz. clamshell on blueberries, it also has the capability to do the same for organics. “We’re striving towards a year-round TopCrop organic label with our contacts in Peru and Chile and the U.S. as well,” says Minton.

Meanwhile, as for pricing, it’s stabilized, though larger, firmer fruit is garnering premium pricing. “The pricing for Peru isn’t stronger then last year–the pandemic helped produce sales last year,” says Minton. “Now people are going out more and spending less at grocery stores. That said, there was less fruit that arrived from Peru last year so that pricing was much more firm.”

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