Is the Chinese demand for blueberries altering the global market?

The demand for red fruits is increasing worldwide. After the big increase in blueberries, it seems that blackberries and raspberries are going to be the next to experience accelerated growth. Cindy van Rijswick (Rabobank) and Mihai Ciobanu (fresh4cast) use the figures to corroborate the general trends in the red fruit market. Despite all the positive figures, there are challenges that also require a response.

Mihai Ciobanu (fresh4cast) and Cindy van Rijswick (Rabobank) answer questions from the audience during the Global Berry Congress.

The figures presented by Cindy and Mihai during the Global Berry Congress underscore the growth of the red fruit market. Although 13,4 millions of tons of red fruits were harvested in 2017, in 2020 the figure will be 15,4 million tons, Mihai predicts. More than 70 percent of world production are strawberries, but strawberries are exported in very small percentages. Production is also growing for blueberries, raspberries and blackberries. In 2020, two million tonnes of blueberries will be harvested, compared to 1,7 million tonnes in 2017. The volume of raspberries and blackberries will go from 1,3 million tons in 2017 to 1,4 million tons in 2020.

Society of 'snacks'

In the EU, the consumption of blueberries has increased by eight percent. Sounds like a lot, but raspberries are up 20 percent. Cindy points out that the raspberries were in a very low position. The market also continues to grow in the United States. Blueberries now have a 20 percent market share, but raspberries and blackberries are taking a growing place. “The market for raspberries and blackberries is the fastest growing"Cindy says. The largest markets for these fruits are the US, Germany and the UK.

"We live in a society of snacks, and the red fruits conform to this pattern of consumptionCindy explains. In the US, the growth figure for processed and convenience products is much higher than for unprocessed products.

Global blueberry market

For blueberries, the market is increasingly international. The Chinese market in particular shows great growth. “It is a good development. Offers the sector more options when there are problems in a marketCindy says. Mihai also mentions the growing demand from China. “Demand in China is increasing rapidly and they pay better prices than the US. UU“. That better price can be afforded due to increased GNP and higher disposable income for the average Chinese consumer. “Chile is taking good advantage of this“. However, this represents a risk for the rest of the market. For example, Chile is the main supplier to the US market for blueberries. In the months of January and February, Chile is practically the only one on the market in both the United States and Europe. The fact that Chile begins to focus more on China could be very unfavorable for the supply to other markets.

Cindy: "We live in a snack society."

The United States is the largest importer of blueberries. This country grows a lot of blueberries, just like Argentina and Chile. Mihai mentions Peru. “Peruvian exports are increasing considerably, particularly towards China“. Asia is by far the largest production region in the world, and consumption on the continent is also significant. For this reason, there is hardly any export, according to Mihai. “China produces 4,1 million tons of strawberries per year“. The United States is the next largest producer, but by quite some distance. Both countries produce mainly for the domestic market.

Dutch surface of greenhouse strawberries on the rise

Spain, Mexico and the USA UU They are the main exporters of strawberries. Spain occupies the 31 percent of exports. Mexico another 18 percent. Import shows global trends for stable growth. For raspberries and blackberries, the largest producers are Mexico, the United States, Russia, Poland and Serbia. Mexico is also one of the largest exporters of this red fruit.

"In the Netherlands, more and more strawberries are grown in greenhouses. We hope this trend continues to growCindy continues. In 2000, the area consisted of just over 100 hectares. In this year's estimates, that number has quadrupled.

Dirty Dozen, containers and workers

Despite all these positive numbers, the sector also faces some challenges that it should resolve. The first challenge mentioned by Cindy is sustainability. “Strawberries are at the top of the Dirty Dozen list, which could be a problem down the road.” A second challenge is the packaging material. In the UK, supermarkets have already declared war on plastics. The red fruits need packaging, but the trends have to translate to the sector. A third challenge is more political. “The sector is flourishing due to free trade, but we see that protectionism is emerging. It is important that the sector continues to advocate free trade".

The availability of workers is the fourth challenge. Worldwide, the number of employees for the harvest is decreasing, which could affect the market. In the United States, the number of Mexican workers decreased significantly from 6,9 million in 2007 to 5,6 million in 2016. Shortages in the labor market also play a role in European countries.

The last challenge is too fast growth, which is particularly risky for blackberries and raspberries. The export from Mexico, Spain and Morocco is growing rapidly, but the increase in exports could also disrupt the market. “In spite of the increasing demand of, for example, blackberries in the USA. US, prices are under pressureCindy concludes.

Source: FreshPlaza

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