Fewer Tucumán blueberry flights due to low prices in U.S.
Nearly one-third of blueberry shipment flights forecast for this season in the Tucumán region of Argentina have not taken off because of the low prices the fruit is fetching in the United States, the principal market, according to local newspaper La Gaceta.
Thirty-one flights have left so far, compared with the 45 that were expected, the newspaper said.
Exports this year were similar to last year: 3,150 metric tons. But importers in the United States are paying only 30% of last year’s prices, according to grower Francisco Estrada, the newspaper website said.
“Prices fell dramatically from the second week of October and did not come back to make up for it,” Estrada is quoted as saying. He attributed the lower prices to bad marketing strategy in the U.S. and a bad economic situation in which there is high unemployment and diminished demand.
“This level of decline does not cover production costs, which prompts many Tucumán companies to cut exports, beginning with the United States,” Estrada is quoted as saying.
He said that American supermarkets even had a moment this year when they marked up what they imported by up to 300%. “That generated a false oversupply, and when the price couldn’t pay for the flights, the shipments by boat started. And so the plan for 45 flights this years stopped at 31,” he is quoted as saying.
Eduardo Gallo, president of the Tucumán Blueberry Growers Association, said that next season, the amount of land devoted to blueberries will shrink by at least 200 hectares.
“The strawberry has the advantage that, year after year, you can decide to plant it,” he is quoted as saying. “But with the blueberry, it’s a perennial. … Unfortunately, there’s a big lie about the blueberry, that it has extraordinary returns, but that could not be more unrealistic,” Gallo is quoted as saying.
Estrada said the blueberry had two weeks this year with pretty good prices, but after they fell so much, export wasn’t worth it.
“There is a serious problem with marketing, because everyone wins: freight, transporters, airplane companies, food sellers, everyone wins, except growers.
“We thought that this year the situation of the last three years (with weather problems) could turn around, but evidently it couldn't solve the problem of the market,” he is quoted as saying.
Blueberry exports were halted in week 46 due to the low price, according to Argentina's Blueberry Committee. The harvest will continue but the fruit will go to industrial processing, FreshFruitPortal.com previously reported.
Photo: La Gaceta