Peru reels from debilitating impact of El Niño as blueberry prices soar
The heat caused by the El Niño climate phenomenon is suffocating the supply of Peruvian blueberries. Abnormally high temperatures in Peru's producing regions have delayed production by 5 to 6 weeks, causing a huge supply shortfall. “The volume drop for the 2023/2024 season will be much greater than the 10% or 15% that Proarándanos predicts; the fall will be around 30% or 35% by volume, depending on how it develops until December. I believe that what some agribusiness companies are going to do is extend the campaign until January, February and March, taking advantage of this last cold period that we have left. “In this way they will try to enter the Chilean window, which ends in April,” says Alfredo Lira Chirif, general manager of Agrícola Cerro Prieto, one of the main blueberry exporters in Peru. Lira points out: “This, which some agribusinesses are already doing in Peru, could mean recovering a little volume, to end the campaign with 20% or 25% less volume in April, as long as it does not rain again due to the phenomenon. of El Niño.”
Given that Peru has established itself as the predominant supplier to the United States, the significant drop in production this year has important repercussions. The United States is expected to be left without real supply until at least week 41. Afterwards, the supply chain is expected to gradually improve. Blueberry production in the Pacific Northwest and Michigan has already concluded, while imports from South America remain sporadic and unpredictable. Looking ahead to October, a gradual improvement in volume from Mexico and Peru is expected, while prices are expected to remain elevated for at least a few more weeks.High prices are driving consumers away from blueberries and demand is declining as a result. “Although the price is expected to be high for the next five to six weeks, we should transition to lower prices as soon as the supply situation improves. It is important that the consumer buy blueberries again.” says Evan Pence of Always Fresh Farms.
Despite the significant reduction in supply, the prevailing shortage is mainly due to package size. Over the years, the industry has evolved toward larger package sizes, with 18 oz. shells becoming the standard, compared to 10 to 15 years ago, when 4,4 oz. shells became the standard. The packaging was usual. “While we try to present the product in small packaging, it seems extremely difficult for Peru to transition to smaller packaging. Because we cannot distribute product in small packages quickly enough, some retailers will not have supply until the situation begins to improve in about five or six weeks,” Pence said. In contrast, Mexico shows greater flexibility and willingness to accommodate 6 oz. packaging, thus positioning itself as a fundamental player in the supply of blueberries to the United States market for this year.
Last season posed significant challenges for Mexico, as strong supply from Peru was accompanied by aggressively competitive pricing, which had a disorienting effect on Mexican suppliers. at the beginning of the season. This year, Mexico is in a better situation. Another event worth mentioning has to do with Argentina's entry into the arena. Despite the exorbitant shipping costs attributable to air traffic, Argentina has seen an opportunity to export greater volumes to the United States during this season.
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All US domestic agricultural commodity prices represent the spot market at the point of shipping (i.e. climate-controlled packing house/warehouse, etc.). For imported fruit, price data represents the spot market at the port of entry.
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