Berry Fresh acquires new farmland across the Americas
U.S.-based marketer Berry Fresh is expecting a huge increase in supply over the coming years, as hundreds of acres of new farms are purchased in the U.S. and key Latin American exporting countries.
Parent company AgroBerries acquired 100 acres of production land this year in Argentina, where it is the largest blueberry exporter, as well as new acerage in Chile, where it is the second-largest blueberry shipper.
In addition, Mexico-based sister company ExpoBerries has recently undertaken a 170-acre raspberry project in the state of Jalisco, as a joint venture between Berry Fresh and another U.S. marketer.
Berry Fresh's North American procurement manager Evan Pence told www.freshfruitportal.com AgroBerries was currently working to better supply the marketing window between the North American and Chilean blueberry deals.
"For the last few years AgroBerries has maintained its status of leading exporter, and recently they’ve been working with Fall Creek Farm and Nursery to do variety renovation," Pence said.
"The overall aim is to improve quality and bring the harvest up a little bit earlier, and that’s been born of the desire to cover that Chilean-American gap a little better."
He said the Concordia farm's high-tech cold storage facility, coupled with the genetic advancement, would hopefully create better eating experiences for U.S. and Canadian customers.
AgroBerries, which has been involved in South American blueberry projects for 20 years and owners of Berry Fresh for 10, also recently purchased a 300-acre farm in neighboring Chile.
Varietal renewal is taking place as well on the Chilean farm, with the fruit having been planted during the 2014-15 season. As with Argentina, the intention is to improve fruit quality and arrive in the North American market earlier in the year.
With the new acerage in the two major South American blueberry-growing countries, Pence said volumes would grow substantially in the near future.
"Overall the expected increase in tonnage would be a double over the next four years," he said.
"The global berry market is expanding and new opportunities are making themselves available, so we want to make sure that we’re on the forefront of quality and that we have availability throughout the year for the whole berry category."
The new project in Mexico that started this year is set to complement ExpoBerries' existing raspberry and blackberry production, and will feature a new variety as well as a high proportion of organic fruit.
"One quarter of production will be organic raspberry and the other three-quarters conventional," Pence said.
"A new variety will be grown there, which a couple of other companies have bought the rights for as well. We have high expectations, even though there is a lot of competition on the raspberry market.
"This is a very exciting time, and soon we’re going to see what quality and yield this new field will give to us."
Berry Fresh also has its own domestic production in the U.S. and Canada, and recently purchased and planted a 200-acre blueberry farm in the state of Oregon.
North American market heating up
With the blueberry deals throughout the North American Pacific coast having wound down much earlier than normal this year, Pence expects strong market conditions over the coming weeks.
"The market is definitely heating up, it's getting very strong. We see it this week, and we’re going to see it probably all the way through weeks 40 to 42," he said.
"What lies beyond that? It’s still a little too early to tell. But as we get started here with the transition there’s definitely a larger gap than we’ve seen in previous years, and that bodes well with blueberry producers on the South American continent as well as Mexico."
Pence also said there was a very positive market outlook for raspberries and blackberries.
"As we see more volume coming into the United States obviously it will level off a bit, but as we’re getting started there are very favorable conditions across all three commodities," he said.
In addition, the Berry Fresh representative highlighted the company would begin to focus on the U.S. East Coast as well as the West in the future, which he said was a logical step given the higher production.
Photos: Berry Fresh