Global Overview Blueberries: As the world enters a new year, blueberries are back on the menu and are one of the most famous fruits in the world. Despite not being a popular Christmas food, blueberries are enjoying a boost in sales in many countries as consumers aim for healthier eating habits in 2022, a trend this healthy berry fits right into! Due to its growing popularity year on year, many countries like Peru, China and Chile have seen plantings and production rise, but in some cases the continued delays in transit times has meant the quality of exports has been affected.
Netherlands: Chilean season delayed
The Peruvian berry season has now entered its final phase. “There is still picking happening in Peru, but that will be over by next week”, expects a Dutch importer. He looks back on a good Peruvian season. “The quality was good this year. Due to the increased plantings, there was a lot of pressure on the market at the beginning of the season, but those prices were compensated later on in the season. The last blueberries are arriving from South Africa. Qualitatively speaking, that season was more problematic. Almost all shipments arrived too late and a transit time of 4-5 weeks was not exceptional. This resulted in large differences in quality. Often the berries were either really good or not good at all.
“In the meantime, the Chilean season is delayed. Normally the first containers arrive in week 50, but delays are the order of the day. I expect that the supply from Chile will peak between weeks 3 and 7 and then quickly decline again. Although there is a lot of talk about reduced supply due to a lack of pickers and the transport problems, the reality is that there is plenty of loading going on. At the moment, the sales of blueberries are stable. “Because of the many delays, there is some uncertainty in the market about whether everyone will be able to meet their obligations, but we have not experienced any problems with this. Expectations for the Mediterranean season are also good. Morocco, in particular, has significantly increased its production. In Spain, winter conditions are not as bad as expected and production is on schedule,” according to the berry trader.
Germany: Quiet market
The marketing of cultivated blueberries is about to change season. Currently, mainly Peruvian produce is offered, supplemented by South African produce. “The first Chilean air cargo is already arriving, but we were only be able to offer larger quantities of ship cargo in the course of week 52. During the first weeks of January, the final seasonal transition will be completed,” reports an importer.
Demand and supply are now roughly in balance, it is further said. “The retail trade is hardly doing any promotions at the moment, especially since blueberries are not a classic Christmas item. All in all, the marketing is rather quiet.”
Ukraine: Higher exports despite lower prices
Ukraine increased its blueberry exports by 65% in volume in 2021, compared to 2020. At the same time, export volumes of fresh blueberries were 18% lower than in the record-breaking year of 2019. The downward trend in the price of blueberries, which is unpleasant for Ukrainian exporters, should also be noted; the average export price for blueberries in 2021 was on average 9% lower than in 2020.
North America: Challenging blueberries market, but good prospects for new year
Supplies of blueberries in North America are facing a few challenges currently. “The Chilean volume is lower than in previous years due to labor shortages and a higher processing price, along with more stable pricing in the European market compared to the U.S. market,” says one shipper. “Add the holidays and we are seeing industry wide challenges in the blueberry category for the next few weeks.”
While the supplies are lower from Chile due to those labor issues, Peruvian blueberries have had some incremental increases in volume. “But it’s not enough to balance out the market,” adds the shipper. Along with those two countries, Argentina, Uruguay and Mexico are also currently shipping fruit.
Not surprisingly, markets are strong for blueberries at this time of year.
“Consumption will remain good as long as unit prices stay sensible/moderate,” says the shipper, who notes that pricing in December was comparable to pricing in December of 2020 and January 2022’s pricing could possibly increase over last year’s prices.
While labor and logistic issues challenge blueberry movement for the next few weeks, looking ahead, much better volumes are expected in February once Chile and Mexico’s supply increases. “When Florida starts up our domestic production in the beginning of March, it should stabilize the market going into spring,” says the shipper
Chile: Decline in export due to longer transit times
The volume of Chilean blueberries exported fresh or frozen has decreased by 24.1% year-on-year. The increase of maritime transit times caused many farmers to be more rigorous with the selection of the fruit, exporting only that which had the conditions to remain in good condition during the long journey. This caused the frozen blueberry market to expand in Chile. Until November 21 of last year, berry exports in this state had increased by 9% compared to the same period during 2020. The figure is expected to increase this year after the signing of new international treaties that facilitate exports to China.
Peru: Huge increase in export of blueberries since 2015/2016
Peru has been growing its blueberry exports steadily over the past years. It has increased from exporting 12.951 tons of fresh blueberries in the 2015/2016 season, to 162.456 tons in the 2020/21 season. For the 2021/2022 campaign it is projected to export 211.200 tons of fresh blueberries.
China: High prices for domestic winter blueberries, but cultivation on the rise
Chinese domestic winter blueberries are now on the market, but the price is still quite expensive because of the low production yield. The retail price of bulk fresh domestic blueberries is as high as 120-150 yuan/kg in some regions.
The cultivation area of domestic blueberries is rapidly increasing. According to relevant data, the cultivation area of blueberries in my country will reach 60.15 thousand hectares in 2020.
The peak season of domestic blueberries is from June to October. In the abundance period, the price of fresh blueberries is generally 40-60 yuan/kg. Winter blueberries are cultivated in Xishuangbanna, Jianshui, Chengjiang and other places in Yunnan, and the overall output is not particularly large.