Chilean blueberry season leaves sour taste for industry

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Chilean blueberry season leaves sour taste for industry

Despite a 13% year-on-year rise in export volumes, the Chilean Blueberry Committee says said various factors including low prices meant the 2016-17 season has left a "sour" taste for the industry. 

Some 103,000 metric tons (MT) of fruit was shipped during the campaign, surpassing the organization's pre-season estimates.

The increase in exports is attributed to increased plantings, varietal conversion, favorable growing conditions and a tough frozen market.

"Probably the most important factor was the price decline of frozen product which spurred on the increase of fresh shipments, both conventional and organic," Chilean Blueberry Committee executive director Andrés Armstrong said.

The season kicked off around four weeks earlier than normal - something Armstrong said had not been welcomed by the industry.

"We weren't able to predict this situation that impacted the processes of harvesting, packing and logistics," he said.

"On the other hand, we were met with growing volumes coming from Mexico and, mainly, Peru, in a market without promotional activities, which usually don't take place during those dates.

"All this meant that stocks did not move with adequate speed, causing prices to fall."

After the peak production weeks, however, promotional activities helped fruit movement return to normal and prices improved.

Rising supply volumes from competing countries were a major issue this year, according to the Committee, and Armstrong highlighted it would be "fundamental" to understand commercial windows and the global market.

"We must continue to make progress in productivity and efficiency," Armstrong said, adding that competition would keep rising.

"The quality and condition of fruit on arrival is critical. Today we are seeing that are clients have more and more alternatives to which they can compare us."

Almost all export markets saw growth during the season, especially Europe and Asia, which had seen slight year-on-year declines during the previous campaign.

Exports grew 14% to Europe and 54% to the Far East, reaching record figures for both regions. Shipments to North America improved 7% over the previous season, reaching similar levels to the 2012-13 deal. 


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