Blueberries in Charts: Prices enter their jumpy phase

April 09 , 2019

In this week's ‘In Charts' installment, Luis Aragón of data visualization tool Agronometrics illustrates how the U.S. market is evolving. Each week the article will look at a different horticultural commodity, focusing on a specific origin or topic to see what factors are driving change.

April is here and for our readers in the United States that means tax-filing season (and its accompanying stress) is almost over. This can only mean one thing for blueberries - their price rollercoaster is entering the jumpy part of its ride. Let’s explore what has been happening first with prices, and then with shipments over the past 10 weeks to better understand what could very well soon follow:

Blueberries, Non-Organic, Daily Prices by KG

(Source: USDA Market News via Agronometrics)

[Agronometrics users can view this chart with live updates here]

First, we’ve observed a price jump of more than double, just within the second half of March. This kind of jump is typical around this time of the year.

The price spike is attributed to sudden drops in shipments over the past 10 weeks as the Chilean and Peruvian shipments are on the tail end of their export season, as was described in detail by a recent FreshFruitPortal.com article: Chilean blueberries fetched lower prices in 2018-19 amid increasing market overlap. Thus, it is left up to Mexico’s more-or-less steady, but limited supply (AVG monthly Mexican shipments for previous 18 months constitute 14% of market share) and Florida to keep blueberries in stock, before the other eight U.S. states’ and Canada’s shipments enter the market.

Blueberries, Non-Organic, Weekly Shipments for previous 10 weeks

(Source: USDA Market News via Agronometrics)

[Agronometrics users can view this chart with live updates here]

Vaccinium, sect. Cyanococcus -for those among us who are fans of Carl Linnaeus- is the Taxonomic name for blueberries. These fruits, once native to North America are now also harvested in Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, and the Southern Cone of the Americas, where they are shipped to markets around the world. In addition, their North American harvesting season (excluding Mexico and its quasi year-round season) typically starts around weeks 10-12 (in Florida) and ends around late September (with Southern California).

To help paint an even clearer map, here’s a chart for the past 78 weeks highlighting shipments for the main blueberry sources across North America (U.S., Mexico, & Canada):

Blueberries, Non-Organic, Historic Weekly Shipments (North America)

(Source: USDA Market News via Agronometrics)

[Agronometrics users can view this chart with live updates here]

Once we appreciate how the range of geographical sources - each one with very different macroeconomic realities and logistical constraints - are at play, it is no wonder why we find such fluctuations surrounding this berry. This trend can be very clearly observed historically when looking at prices and volumes simultaneously.

Blueberries, Non-Organic, Price and Volumes

(Source: USDA Market News via Agronometrics)

[Agronometrics users can view this chart with live updates here]

Given all these particularities surrounding blueberries, we would venture to anticipate that prices will follow similar trends to last year. That is to say, the current price rise is likely to continue for another week or so, after which it would drop back below the $10 USD/KG mark by weeks 17-18, as more U.S. states production comes online.  

The last chart gives us a glance at historical spot prices for the past four years.

Blueberries, Non-Organic, Historic Weekly Prices per KG

(Source: USDA Market News via Agronometrics)

[Agronometrics users can view this chart with live updates here]

So with such a jumpy path, why not finish on a lighter note with the classic kid’s joke. What does the raspberry say to the blueberry? Breathe, man, breathe!

As a side note, a key event to keep in mind will be the International Blueberry Organisation’s yearly summit for 2019, which this year will take place at the end of June in British Columbia, CA. In our opinion, it is always interesting and enriching when active trade groups form at a global scale, and stay engaged, in particular when concerning highly dynamic produce. Full disclosure: We work with the IBO on several projects, but are not paid to promote them.


In our ‘In Charts’ series, we work to tell some of the stories that are moving the industry. Feel free to take a look at the other articles by clicking here.

You can keep track of the markets daily through Agronometrics, a data visualization tool built to help the industry make sense of the huge amounts of data that professionals need to access to make informed decisions. If you found the information and the charts from this article useful, feel free to visit us at www.agronometrics.com where you can easily access these same graphs, or explore the other 23 fruits we currently track.

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