Movements in the TOP 10 rankings of the blueberry industry

We analyzed yield per hectare, total blueberry production, total hectares planted, and fresh blueberry production by country, and their changes between the last two seasons.

The 2021-2022 season was marked by problems that complicated the economic solvency of small and medium producers. 

The increase in inflation increased the prices of supplies for the cultivation of blueberries, reducing their profitability. This effect was exacerbated by the start of the conflict in Ukraine and its effect on the shortage of nitrogenous fertilizers, whose raw materials come mostly from Russia and Belarus, countries economically sanctioned for starting the war. 

To this is added the delays in maritime shipments, which implied the loss of quality and value of the fruits, and for those who could afford it, the investment in post-harvest technologies. 

The past post-pandemic season accelerated changes in the industry that affected the production of consolidated industries while others, such as Mexico and Morocco benefited from the scenario due to their competitive advantages.  

Blueberry Crop Yield

The data reported by the latest report of the International Blueberry Organization (IBO), show that emerging industries in the field were able to stand out in this ranking due to the trend towards varietal replacement.

The delay in sea shipments hastened the shift towards varieties with qualities that are more valued by retailers and consumers: flavour, crunch and size. These help to increase the price of the final product, which together with the increase in yield – and in many cases a longer post-harvest life – reduce or mitigate the risk of loss of profits due to logistical problems. 

Table developed by Blueberries Consulting with IBO data. The arrows indicate the movement of the industries in the indicated ranking.

In the table it can be seen how incipient industries, with low levels of production, are in the Top 10 of yield per hectare. These are industries that recently started their activity, which, unlike the more mature ones, did not build their competitiveness strategy based on production windows, but rather based on the quality of their fruits.

Peru leads, the largest exporter of fresh blueberries in the world, going from fourth (2020) to first place. The country is in the process of replacement, increasing the participation of the Ventura variety, which came to replace Biloxi blueberries on Peruvian farms. In addition, large companies are evaluating and developing trials with club varieties.

Also noteworthy are New Zealand and Spain, home to companies incubating the most modern varieties of blueberries in the world. 

Fresh blueberry production 

For the first time in history, the world produces more than one million metric tons (MT) of fresh blueberries. 

China surpasses the United States in the ranking, becoming the second largest producer of fresh blueberries in the world, destined mainly for domestic consumption.

It should be clarified that while the data for the United States (3rd) and Peru (1st) are obtained from government and union sources, IBO clarifies that the information sources in China are less specific, therefore both the estimate of fresh production as the total production of blueberries may be less than that reported by the Asian country. 

Table developed by Blueberries Consulting with IBO data. The arrows indicate the movement of the industries in the indicated ranking. The light blue dot means that the country maintained its position in the ranking.

Peru remains the largest producer of fresh blueberries in the world, increasing its yield by almost 50%. 

The only country to decrease the fresh production of the berry is Chile, whose total was reduced by 11,4% compared to 2020. This country has a mature industry, built at the end of the 90s with the strategy of offering in the corresponding production window between December to March. With the arrival of higher yielding varieties, Chile faces the challenge of modernizing its varietal offer.

In addition, it was strongly affected by logistical problems, which undermined the good reputation of the quality of its fruits, altered by the long transportation times to its final market. In addition to this, a large part of its productive areas is in drought, and the unpredictable temperatures caused by climate change can delay or advance the harvest, losing the competitive advantage of the production window. 

On the contrary, South Africa stands out as one of the industries where its strategy was based on selling quality with the aim of producing during the 52 weeks of the year. To achieve this, many growers have started their business by investing in high-yielding premium or club varieties.

A reflection of this is the growth of more than 56% of South African production, an industry that is positioned within the Top 10 in three of the rankings presented.

Hectares planted with blueberries

The only ranking where there were no movements in the positions of the industries between 2020 and 2021. The differences in production during 2021 were caused – in at least a third – by the greater use of varieties with better performance.

Table developed by Blueberries Consulting with IBO data. The arrows indicate the movement of the industries in the indicated ranking.

The other two thirds are attributed to the growth of planted areas. All the industries present in the ranking increased the hectares planted between 2020 and 2021, presenting the largest percentage changes in Peru, Ukraine, Poland and Mexico.

In total, there are 235.408,5 hectares planted with the berry in the world, of which only 185.535,5 hectares are in production.

Total blueberry production

During 2021-2022, there were 1.789,59 MT of blueberries in the world. 

Table developed by Blueberries Consulting with IBO data. The arrows indicate the movement of the industries in the indicated ranking. The light blue dot means that the country maintained its position in the ranking.

Peru surpassed Chile for the first time, remaining as the third country with the highest total production of blueberries in the world during 2021, growing by 45,59% compared to 2020. While Chile decreased its production by 5,34%, given the greatest difficulties with maritime transport and the scarce labor force. 

China reaches a high growth rate (61,52%) compared to 2020, remaining the leader of the ranking and increasing its advantage over the United States, a region where the commercial cultivation of blueberries, a native fruit of North America, began.

The growth of Mexico is surprising, reaching 34,34%, rising from seventh to fifth place, and the positioning of Morocco and South Africa in the ranking, again industries driven by the use of modern varieties of blueberries, and in the case of first two, the proximity to its main markets.

It is expected that by 2025 the industry will exceed 3 million MT of blueberries produced in the world. However, they warn about the possibility that this projection changes, given the scarcity of labor and resources, in addition to the effects of climate change, causes that mainly affect Latin America, a region that contains two of the largest exporters in the world. industry: Chile and Peru. 

Catalina Pérez Ruiz - Blueberries Consulting

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