North America: Blueberry supply shortage in October

Blueberry supplies in North America are tight right now.

"This week and next are possibly the busiest of the year," says Lee Kimball of Somerfield Farms LLC, based in Wilmington, NC. “Our supplies have been lighter than expected due to a couple of factors, including the weather. But we are not alone, there are quite a few traders whose supplies have been scarce.

With the national blueberry season over in North America, supplies are now arriving from both Mexico and Peru. "Mexico didn't really start with any kind of volume in October," says Kimball. The Mexico harvest is expected to see a 20-25 percent increase in fruit that is expected to be of high quality in appearance, taste and shelf life. "But the volumes are not there yet," adds Kimball.

The timing is similar to that of last year's Mexican harvest. “The grower side was projected to be strong at this point and it was not, so we need to adjust expectations for when Mexican blueberries will start arriving in significant volumes,” says Kimball.

Are volumes increasing in Peru?

Meanwhile, some volume has arrived from Peru, a harvest that is also projected to see an increase of about 40 percent in volume, although Kimball says the volumes have yet to match. This is different from last year when Peruvian volumes seemed more consistent at the moment.
In addition, Argentina is also supplying fruit that is said to have improved in quality over last year. “They have been able to fill a small gap in the market with quality fruit,” says Kimball.

In terms of demand, North American demand for imported blueberries is moderate to good at the moment and similar to last year. “But the fruit is limited, so if you are not committed, open fruit on the market costs $ 34- $ 36 / pint and more. That's hard for a retailer to want to jump in, ”says Kimball.

However, shipments to other countries are affecting North American supplies. "There has been a spike in volumes going to Asia and Europe, which is creating a bump," says Kimball. “When Peru started, the market was weak with a low price, so they diverted or prevented some fruit from going to the United States. They found decent markets for it in the other countries. That allowed them to keep those markets high in the other countries where the volume was not overwhelming in the early part of the season. They can go to those markets to get good prices, but they need the volume to come to the United States. "

The effect on domestic producers

All of this import movement has had an effect on domestic blueberry production in states like Michigan, for example, a long-standing blueberry producing region. “They are seeing their market window become more competitive because they have BC and the Pacific Northwest pressing on one side and Peru on the other,” says Kimball. What can be a challenge in the domestic market is swapping blueberries for newer varieties. "In Michigan, it takes 10 to 12 years for a plant to reach full maturity, so it doesn't have the capacity," says Kimball. "Florida faces the same challenge with Mexican and Chilean fruits coming into its window."

While markets are strong now, they should stabilize in November and Kimball predicts it will hit a $ 28- $ 32 market in the first three weeks of November thanks to increased volume. Peru began harvesting peak volume just over a week ago and those volumes should reach North America in week 44. Mexican supplies will also hit stronger volumes at that time.

"There is a relief on the supply side, but we will have a few more weeks of tight markets here in the US," says Kimball.

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