Frozen blueberries with potential for "strengthening prices"

Frozen blueberries with potential for "strengthening prices"

Demand for frozen blueberries is expected to continue at high levels, with potential for strengthening prices along with persistent growth over the next couple of years, according to industry members who spoke at the NABC/USHBC Spring Conference.

Over the last year, the frozen blueberry fruit market has been impacted by the pandemic with consumer demand skyrocketing, and according to John Shelford from Naturipe Farms, he is forecasting the combined U.S. and Canadian numbers to be above last year.

“At 388 million pounds for highbush this year, I am forecasting we will be going into the 450 area and begin to push 500 million pounds over the next two or three years, getting us back into the 700 to 720 million pounds total for high and lowbush.”

The Current Frozen Market Update session's panelists included Shelford, along with Mike Phillips, Mark Adams and Steven Phillips of Berry Hill.

“I think market prospects are looking good for the coming year. We are seeing a potential for strengthening prices as we go into this harvest period," Shelford said.

“The carrying supply I’m predicting will be the lowest it has been in the last 10 years, we had the highest movement we’ve ever had in the first four months from October to January.”

Speaking about the USDA Cold Storage Holding Report, Shelford said it is only public cold storages that voluntarily report as there is no mandatory reporting requirement, which makes information somewhat unreliable.

“I have used an analysis that gives me confidence that the cold storage report is a good index of what is taking place, even though it isn’t a hard number, it shows us relationships.”

Regarding exports, demand has been “reasonable” and highbush will be limited by pesticide residue limits, so wild will continue to dominate.

For offshore lowbush exports, Shelford anticipates that 2021 will be down significantly due to the very limited supply from the 2020 harvest of only 213 million pounds.

The frozen pack will increase with grower profitability being squeezed and quality standards continuing to trend to “near perfection” for “added” value, however, fresh supply growth is going to continue to be a competitor, according to Shelford.

When asked about predictions for 2021, “the hope is that the uptick in frozen continues and as there is demand for good quality, I think with that high quality we can move a lot of volume now,” Steven Phillips said.