Argentina wrapped up its season with export volumes 16% lower than forecast and having fetched far lower prices in the U.S. market than last year due to heavy volumes from Peru.
The volume drop is largely due to poor weather conditions, according to Fedefiroc Bayá of the Argentinean Blueberry Committee (ABC).
Baya spoke to Fresh Fruit Portal about how the season developed, challenges within the industry, and the country’s first blueberry export to China.
On the oversupply in the U.S. market over recent months, he said that "the appearance of Peru in the market has really changed the conditions".
“If we look at the window that Argentina has from late August to the end of December, the prices have dropped 20% in the U.S. This is because of the greater pressure of the Peruvian supply, which surpassed 40,000 metric tons (MT) in 2017 and approached 65,000MT is 2018, growing around 50%.
“That greater supply pressure has made the markets react with lower prices.”
Argentina ended up exporting 15,500MT, having originally forecast 18,000MT. The 2017 season saw exports of 16,000MT.
A higher proportion of local production than normal - around 3,000MT - was also sold for processing due to the poor weather conditions, and 2,000MT of production was sold on the domestic market.
Most exports went to the U.S., 30% to the U.K. and Europe and a small amount to Asia, where the Chinese market recently opened for Argentine blueberry exporters.
Baya said that approval only came through in late October but the industry was able to send some trial volumes to the new market and evaluate the logistical aspects.
In January, China also lowered its tariffs on Argentine blueberries from 30% to 15%, helping it to better compete with Chile and Peru which have free trade agreements with the Asian country.