Analysis of the world panorama of blueberry production
The production and consumption of blueberries continue to increase globally, despite the adverse weather in some countries and the increase in production costs that is being experienced throughout the world. China remains the world's largest producer of blueberries, overtaking North America in 2019. Labor shortages have been an issue in some countries, with some UK growers starting their harvest later due to this issue. In Italy a water shortage is feared, while in Australia growers have lost 10% of the harvest nationwide due to heavy rains and flooding. Meanwhile, in South Africa, a debate has erupted around declining blueberry crop yields, after the country had a difficult season last year. Yet despite these problems, demand for the popular berry continues to grow.
The Netherlands: Blueberry harvest started cautiously, there are also good berries from Serbia on the market
The Moroccan blueberry season has been qualitatively good. “Pricing was very high for the first few weeks. But starting week 15/16, we saw a generous price decline in the market with the arrival of the Spanish season and higher Moroccan volumes. Spain has had a long season, so these berries were more spread out than expected. In short, two beautiful windows that have worked without problems”, concludes a Dutch importer. Portugal started the season from week 21/22. “This season has been very difficult when it comes to quality. Portuguese growers still expect to receive very high prices as in the past. Unfortunately, we have to conclude that many Portuguese producers, fortunately not all, cannot guarantee their quality and therefore this quality does not correspond to the prices they demand.
“Meanwhile, the Serbian blueberry season has also started. Right now, very good quality berries are arriving. The berries are hard, crunchy, and have a good flavor. The volume that is now starting to arrive is also reflected in the price; the price is starting to drop slightly which is also affecting other countries starting now. Dutch blueberry growers began cautious picking this week, the fruit on the plant showing good size and shape. The run-up to the season has been good, with no unusual weather conditions, so it should finally be another beautiful season for Dutch blueberry growers”, expects the fruit trader, who concludes with a warning. “Buyers have yet to realize that quality comes at a price. Comparing the prices of southern Europe (late season, empty cold rooms) with the prices of the fresh selection (Serbia, NL, DE) is still too much. Don't go for the price, go for the quality. Quality has its price, but it will cause fewer problems with the final buyer/customer”.
Belgium: the share of organic blueberries continues to increase
The blueberry season has started in Belgium. “The demand for Belgian blueberries is good. We see that not everyone has switched to the local product yet, but sales are going well,” says a Belgian trader. “After some anxiety due to unexpected frosts and a dry March, the quality turns out to be excellent. We are already on a good run and started almost 2 weeks earlier than last year. In addition, the prices are at a correct level, so we will be satisfied if they continue throughout the season."
“As far as organic blueberries are concerned, we are entering very large volumes,” he continues. “For us, it is around 20 percent of all production and the demand for the organic product continues to increase every year in Belgium. The quality is also good again, which is why more and more retailers are putting them on their shelves.” “
Germany: national harvest begins
The German blueberry market is currently characterized by diversity and many origins: “Supply from Serbia and Romania is picking up rapidly, while the last Spanish batches and product from Italy and Portugal are reaching the market. Since week 25 we have also been able to access the first German tunnel goods and in a few days we are also expecting the first outdoor goods of the Duke variety. The assortment will be completed in about 2-3 weeks with the first shipments from Poland,” he explains. an importer. Prices are slightly below last year's level, despite production costs continuing to rise.
The main variety of German cultivation is the Duke. Most of the volumes enter the market in the first half of the season, as Poland puts more and more pressure on the market with volumes in the second half of the season. Normally, the main German crop is marketed until mid-October. Northern Germany is still the main growing area, while some southern regions are also gaining ground. Its volumes are mainly traded in the regional wholesale markets.
UK: Lack of labor delays blueberry harvest a week for some
The blueberry harvest is underway in the UK, a Kent grower said they could have started last week but have postponed it until this week.
“We were delayed due to labor costs and availability, so instead of making two picks, we decided to wait and make a larger pick. This will not affect the shelf life or quality of the fruit as it goes directly to the retailers."
There will be a steady build up of fruit over the next 2-3 weeks as volumes peak, harvesting will continue with different varieties through the summer into August/September.
Demand is reasonable, but growers in general are concerned about the rising cost of living affecting demand for soft fruit. While strawberries and raspberries are considered a British summer fruit, blueberries are not, as they have traditionally been imported 52 weeks of the year.
Poland and southern Europe can produce at very competitive prices and although the UK cannot supply all year round, there is scope to be self-sufficient during the summer months.
Blueberry consumption continues to grow in the UK, but to be more competitive, UK growers would need to switch to machine harvesting to make it profitable.
France: Good prospects for French blueberries
Spanish blueberries can still be found on the French market. Berries of French origin are also present and production will increase in the coming weeks. Most blueberries are still packed in 125g trays. The heat wave of recent days has caused some risks. In the southwest, some blueberry growers were affected by frost in early April, which delayed the start of production by about 3 weeks. But unlike last season, the harvest looks good in terms of volume. As for the quality, it is satisfactory for the moment.
In general, the blueberry market in France continues to develop, with demand increasing.
Italy: Water shortage fears as blueberry acreage continues to grow
High temperatures are affecting the blueberry campaign in northern Italy. An important operator says that the product has a smaller caliber than in previous years, and also the maturation, due to the weather, is faster. In addition, there is the problem of drought: farms with little available water run the risk of suffering plants. In northwestern Italy, the harvest is 50%. The prices are not very high as they collide with those of the Spanish product that are more competitive. The Italian operator exports throughout Europe, mainly to Great Britain and Switzerland, but also to Eastern countries where Italian operators reach more easily than Spanish ones.
Every year, the blueberry areas in Campania are growing. "The harvest started a few months ago," says the director of a cooperative. “We are very convinced of the qualities of the Italian blueberry, which is why each year we increase the production areas by a few hectares; in this way we grow not only in terms of cultivation, but also in volume. In the last month we have had some problems due to the abundant availability of the product in the markets, linked above all to the presence of competing Spanish products, which congested the markets during some time, but now the situation has calmed down.
For blueberries from Val Venosta, a production of around 30 tons is expected. "When you consider that each tray contains 125 grams of product, you realize that this is anything but a small amount," explains an Italian cooperative.
This year will be the first test case for the Sekoya varieties thanks to production in Piedmont and other Italian regions, including southern Italy. The project is to achieve a strong production in Italy and throughout the world in a few years in order to guarantee the Sekoya varieties 12 months of the year. Currently, about 15 hectares of Sekoya have been planted in Italy, but it is planned to reach 120 hectares by 2027. The availability of the national product is expected to be from the end of March to the end of October.
Spain: Spanish blueberry prices recover
The price of Spanish blueberries has recovered significantly in the last two weeks. Still, it continues to trade at low levels due to much higher volumes compared to previous campaigns. Once the peak of the season has passed, throughout the month of June, blueberry volumes decline rapidly. It is estimated that more than 95% of the total planned for the campaign has been marketed and that in the current campaign the marketed production is more than 20% higher than the previous one. It is expected that in the coming campaigns the supply from Huelva will continue to increase, as in the rest of the world's producing countries. Sector experts calculate, therefore, that prices will continue to adjust in the coming campaigns and that this could encourage greater consumption.
South Africa: Blueberry production continues to increase despite declining yields
Drops and drops of blueberries have been exported, totaling 300 tons from February to now. The main blueberry season is now set to move into higher gear as northern parts of the country start harvesting (in Zimbabwe, the blueberry harvest is already underway).
Last year, South Africa exported 20.000 tons of blueberries; At the moment, the coming season is estimated at 25.000 tons of exports, but it could be higher. (Total production was 31.500 tons last year.)
During the South African peak, when Western Cape growers put their fruit on the market, there is strong competition from Peru putting pressure on prices and there has been a vigorous recent debate about falling blueberry yields after a tough last season.
The blueberry industry was subject to severe logistical delays in 2021, with the fruit taking up to 60 days to reach Europe. Exports were lower than expected and the Bureau of Agriculture and Farm Policy has said that 2021 export prices were 14% lower than the previous year, mainly due to lower prices in Europe.
Input costs are a heavy burden right now.
The national berry organization has focused on establishing accurate industry data: there are currently 2.826 hectares of blueberries in South Africa (74% in the Western Cape, 20% in Limpopo). As part of the maturation of the industry, there has been the elimination of more marginal cultivars and their replacement by others. For next year, the blueberry area will be 3.208ha.
By comparison, Peru, South Africa's direct competitor in blueberries, has more than 12.000 hectares of blueberries.
China: China overtakes the US as the world's largest producer of blueberries
March to July are months for domestic blueberries in the Chinese market. The domestic season starts around March. Prices this year for early red fruits were around 40 euros per kg. In mid-April, when larger flagships from Yunnan province entered the market, the price dropped to 100 yuan (14 euros) per kg.
According to the data, China overtook the US as the world's largest blueberry producer in 2019. China's top five blueberry production regions in 2020 are Guizhou, Sichuan, Anhui, Liaoning and Shandong. Production in Yunnan is developing rapidly, particularly its fresh, early maturing varieties.
The big exporters of blueberries to China are Chile and Peru. In recent years, Peru's blueberry production and exports to China have skyrocketed; From 2010 to 2019, its export production to China skyrocketed from next to nothing to 140 million pounds. Chinese consumers prefer the white bloom that is a natural feature of some blueberry varieties.
North America: tight supply of blueberries pushes up prices Supply of blueberries in the US is lower than usual this time of year.
On the West Coast of the US, blueberries are going to be extremely scarce, in part due to the timing of the California blueberry deal. “The California program started a little earlier than normal and is ending a little earlier than normal. They had good weather to grow and they produced a lot of fruit and had a lot of promotions,” says a transporter. “Usually we see California continuing through June and then transitioning to Oregon basically right now. And that just isn't happening."
While the timing of California production is one reason supplies are tighter, the biggest impact on the market is the delay in Pacific Northwest blueberries from Oregon, Washington and British Columbia. “The Pacific Northwest has had a very cool spring and all offers through those regions are a bit behind schedule,” the carrier says. “So volumes are tighter and we'll likely see this during the first week or two of July. So we'll go back to the normal production curve that we see in the Pacific Northwest. We anticipate abundant, promotable volumes of blueberries by mid-July.”
Meanwhile, on the East Coast, the New Jersey blueberry deal is up and running and says its production is normal. “It's pretty hot right now on the East Coast and throughout the Midwest. The deal moves from New Jersey to Michigan and there are still a few things to see about how the Michigan crop pans out. Especially with some of that humidity and heat in the last five days or so."
In terms of demand, it is expected to remain strong for blueberries. “A number of retailers have worked with us on promotions and other things to keep the fruit moving. We also have a series of promotions during July and August”, says the carrier. “We anticipate that the demand for blueberries will continue to increase and the supply of summer blueberries is no exception.”
However, that strong demand and tighter volumes will affect the amount of production available for the weekend of July 1, Canada Day, July 4 in the US, a holiday typically associated with berries. (July is also National Blueberry Month.)
Taken together, this shorter market is keeping prices high at the moment, and the carrier anticipates it to stay that way for the next three to four weeks. “But we do anticipate it going back to historical levels as we go into July and normalize those volumes from both the Pacific Northwest and the tail end of the New Jersey deal and into Michigan, so the later part of July and August.”
Australia: 10% reduction in blueberry harvest due to adverse weather
It was a challenging start for the Australian blueberry industry, with heavy rain and flooding having a significant effect on growers in northern New South Wales, which produces around 75 per cent of the national output. supply. An industry body has estimated a reduction of around 10 per cent in production across the industry due to this. The industry's leading body is also ramping up its national marketing campaign, after the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic resulted in a two per cent drop in consumption as shoppers switched to shopping online. online or visit retail stores less. Work is also underway in Australia to improve export opportunities and market access, supporting fruit fly protocols.
The aforementioned weather conditions earlier this year are likely to affect the recent year-on-year growth in the Australian blueberry industry. For the year ending June 2021, 23.452 tons were produced and valued at $411 million, according to the latest figures. This is an increase of 13% in volume and 6% in value, and follows a 9% increase in volume and 15% in value in the fiscal year ending June 2020.
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