Overview of the global blueberry market: demand, supply, price ...

The demand for blueberries is increasing in several countries, while in some countries like France it is still quite low.

The Peruvian blueberry season is over and the market is now mainly dominated by Chile. However, this South American country suffers from a shortage of labor for the harvest and the forecast of the traders is that the volumes that go to Europe will be reduced from week 7. Thereafter, the season will end. It will move to Mediterranean countries, such as Spain. and Morocco.

In North America, there is a risk of volume build-up on the East Coast, while shipments to the West Coast may be reduced due to logistics issues at the Port of Los Angeles.

Spain: possible market deviation due to late harvest

Despite the pandemic and strict restrictions around the world, the demand for blueberries remains high. The sale of South American blueberries (Argentina, Chile and Peru) is going very well; however, there appear to be fewer volumes available this year.

The last shipments of Chilean blueberries will arrive in Europe between the first and second week of February, despite the fact that the South American season normally ends in early March. Only a few small volumes of Peruvian blueberries will arrive in the last weeks of February.

For its part, Spain experienced snowstorms and frosts in early January that will delay production. Morocco has also started slowly this year; therefore blueberry volumes are expected to be very limited between the last two weeks of February and the first two weeks of March.

In crop year 2019-2020, cold and excessive rains caused blueberry production to drop by around 40% compared to the previous season, which was offset by higher prices. This year, if there are no climatic adversities, Spain hopes to recover these volumes and the most recent plantations will also enter production with higher yields.

Therefore, this season Huelva could easily harvest around 50% more than last year, so greater pressure on prices is expected after the February production gap. It should be remembered that the market was already saturated last year before weather conditions caused a drop in production.

France: demand is low

Chile is currently the main supplier to the French market. The quality and the volumes that arrive are satisfactory for French traders. After Chile, the fruits will begin to arrive from neighboring Spain. However, at present, the demand in the market itself is quite low.

Netherlands: turbulent market for blueberries

According to a Dutch importer, there is currently a turbulent market for blueberries. “We are facing delays with many ocean shipments from Chile. In addition, important promotions have been organized in Germany that absorb a large part of the offer. This week is the last with the arrival of large shipments from Chile; after that, the supply will decrease rapidly.

As of week 6/7, only 50% of the current volume will remain. Chile faces a severe labor shortage, which means that the fruits cannot always be harvested on time. This is reflected in the quality of the batches, with many overripe and delicate red fruits. Chilean blueberry prices range between 5 and 5,50 euros (in bulk) ”.

“Morocco started the season slowly. Due to the cold, the start of the season was delayed a bit. Consequently, prices are good, currently reaching 9 euros per kilo ”, specifies the importer from Freshplaza. “In qualitative terms, we expect the Chilean season to end from week 7, while Morocco will have good trade volumes from week 7/8, so there should be a good transition between the two. »

Germany: shortages and quality problems in retail

At present, conditions in the German blueberry market are very difficult. Most of the available volumes come from Chile, where the coronavirus crisis ( Covid-19 ) has caused a shortage of workers for harvesting and packaging.

"As a result, we are seeing a clear shortage of exports to Europe," says a German importer. “Many volumes are picked too late, which makes them unsuitable for export to Europe, and they cannot be offered in the United States either. We are also having problems shipping goods to Rotterdam. It is not uncommon for our products to arrive a week late, which of course has a negative impact on the quality of the products. »

German retail demand, on the other hand, remains high. “The closure of the restaurant business evidently affected the wholesale trade; however, this was more than offset by retail sales. We have been in high demand for some time. The volumes that arrive during the Chilean season increase every year. This also applies to demand, so there is no surplus and the market situation remains largely the same. »

Due to the problems mentioned above, the Chilean season ends a few weeks earlier than usual. The last large batches are expected to arrive in the third week of February. Normally, the Chilean supply available is abundant until March. “This means that we will start working with Moroccan and Spanish products much earlier than usual. Chilean blueberry prices currently reach between 6 and 8 euros per kilo, while Spanish and Moroccan productions should initially sell at around 10 euros per kilo.

United Kingdom: Chilean exports below expectations

The blueberry season is off to a good start after an early end to the European season. This resulted in high prices in September and through October, although the market was under some pressure towards the end of October and in November due to the large volumes exported from Peru. In December, the market began to show signs of recovery. So far, January has been a great month, as Chile, contrary to expectations, has not exported large volumes.

Italy: blueberry sales remain stable

A wholesaler in northern Italy says conditions in the blueberry market are good, despite the absence of the restaurant business. Bakers and restaurants have always been big buyers for blueberries, but despite pandemic closures, there is no shortage of shopping. Chile is already on the market after a few weeks where the main supplier has been Peru.

The product is imported by air or sea and the wholesaler receives it already packaged in 125-gram containers. The wholesale trade sells "giant" blueberries and the price in January fluctuated between 8 and 11 euros per kilo. The quality is good.

“After Chile, imports will begin to arrive from North Africa, especially Morocco, and late spring will be the time for Italian production first in the south and then in the center and north of the country. In spring and summer there will be competition from Polish production ”, informs Freshplaza.

Poland: very difficult end of season

In the summer, Poland suffered from frosts that affected 30-40% of early blueberry varieties. Demand was very weak at the beginning of the season, but gradually recovered. The price of Polish blueberries has been higher this year due to weather conditions and the pandemic.

Production costs are higher than for most fruits and, furthermore, Poland has struggled to find workers this year as the pandemic has made it difficult for Ukrainian workers to arrive in the country. Polish blueberries are sold all over the world, but European countries, as well as those in the Middle East and Asia, remain its main destinations.

South Africa: more sales in the local market due to logistical challenges

Until the end of 2020, 15.636 tonnes of South African blueberries were exported, more than in the 2019/2020 season, when 12.221 tonnes were shipped. The peak of exports was reached between week 41 and week 46.

However, heavy rains and cold caused the harvest to be lower than originally planned. Due to the lack of air transport capacity and delays in logistics, many producers decided to sell their products in the local market, which resulted in lower prices. The industry has set a goal of also exporting more blueberries by ship rather than by air, as the costs of the latter are very high and have continued to rise in 2020.

Last week, the price of blueberries on the domestic market was 100,47 rand (5,45 euros) per kilo. Prices have now risen 77% to 177,33 rand (9,46 euros) per kilo due to the reduction in supply. Most of the export volumes go to the UK and the EU. The Middle East and Asia also remain important destinations.

United States: Port delays could cause difficulties in season

Blueberry supply in North America is lower than normal, largely due to logistical problems. Most of the blueberries come from Chile, which started shipping them earlier this year. These are mainly headed towards the east coast. For its part, Mexican blueberries are mainly shipped to the west coast. Chile suffers from a shortage of labor for the harvest.

Additionally, Peru ended earlier than expected and there are currently significant delays at the Port of Los Angeles. Sometimes loads are delayed for a few days even though volumes are still available on the market. An East Coast importer is partly affected by these developments, because volumes actually destined for the West Coast could end up on the East Coast.

The demand in the market remains stable, but the supply is decreasing. Consumers are also showing greater interest in large packaging formats. During the last two weeks, the price has continued to rise, which is good for producers in Mexico and Chile. The Chilean supply is expected to remain at its peak until March.

China: growing blueberry production and market potential

Quality at the start of the Chilean blueberry season was not very good. As the market grows, more and more exporters see the potential of the Chinese market and begin to enter it. But some exporters still do not know the trends of the Chinese market and do not know what kind of fruit local customers want.

Some ship large volumes of substandard products. In general, the purchasing power to buy expensive imported fruit has been reduced due to the coronavirus. This year's sales are not as good as in previous years, in part due to fears of viruses.

Although the volume of blueberries imported by China is increasing rapidly every year, the number of blueberry greenhouses in Yunnan is increasing just as quickly. National companies have a great advantage in terms of blueberry plantation and total production volumes. There is huge market potential in the sector. A growing number of international companies have invested in the production of Chinese blueberries, which is putting enormous pressure on the market.

Southern Highbush varieties have been around since 2018. In the greenhouses of the northern production areas, more than 80% of the newly planted areas are of these varieties, and more than 60% of the production in unheated greenhouses in Shandong are varieties from the south. Highbush. The O'Neill, Misti, Legosi, Emerald and Jewelry varieties have become the most dominant varieties south of the Yangtze River.

Australia: peak sales

The blueberry season in Australia is currently in full swing and prices in stores have risen. Last year 19.000 tons of blueberries were grown; a 13% volume increase. The value increased by 10% to 338,7 million Australian dollars (212,7 million euros).

New Zealand: increased consumption of blueberries

Statistics released in December show New Zealanders consumed a record 8 million baskets of blueberries worth more than NZ $ 30 million (€ 17,6 million) last season. This implies an increase of 1,1 million in the number of beneficiaries (+ 15,2%). The New Zealand Blueberry Growers Trade Association expects sales to increase further this summer due to the coronavirus crisis. 60% of blueberries are exported to Australia and Asia.

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