U.S. imports good volumes of berries from LATAM this season
The U.S. berry market has enjoyed a solid supply from Latin American exporters so far this season. The numbers are expected to continue to rise, guaranteeing a good year round supply.
With an initiative on planting new blueberry varieties, Peru is raising the bar from an export standpoint. Due to the quality and quantity, flavor profile, aesthetics and overall eating experience of their product, they have positioned themselves as the leading exporter of blueberries into the U.S. today, according to Joe Powell, Director of Bushberry Supply at Wish Farms.
In an interview with FreshFruitPortal, Powell said: “The blueberry season has been a success thus far, Peru’s quality has come above last year’s given the colder winter they had.”
“What Peru is able to do within a six to eight month window of planting to harvest is absolutely impressive. They’re going to exceed 300 million pounds this year,” he added.
Keeping an eye on Chilean imports
This year’s Chilean season, which started near the end of December, has brought in better quality blueberries compared to last year’s campaign affected by supply constraints.
Even though imports have fulfilled the need for this season, there is concern regarding the quality of the blueberry compared to the Peruvian product.
“There is concern that consumer sentiment will decrease with the drop off of quality coming in versus the Peru fruit,” said Powell. “It's something we all need to be aware of, and make sure that we are all focused on the quality of the Chilean arrivals.”
Thus far, there have been no delays on the arrivals of containers from Chile. Importers hope it remains this way so they don't have to face the issues of the last season.
Chilean imports to the U.S. are expected to reach around 90 million pounds this season.
Expectations for Mexican imports
Mexico will continue to play an essential role in the U.S. import market. With their season window starting between January and February, importers expect it exceed last year’s import volumes.
“Historically, Mexico hits its import peak during the late March, early April window and we expect close to 180 million pounds coming in,” said Powell regarding their forecast for this year’s season.
According to Powell, Mexican fruit has become more appealing to the retailer being just three days away from market, compared to three weeks in a container coming from other producers. In terms of quality, all Mexican imports have exceeded quality expectations this season.
Blackberries and strawberries out of Mexico have also been consistent this season. Quality has been above last year with a consistent and reliable supply.
Consumer demand increasing
“Consumer demand has increased greatly because the U.S. Highbush Blueberry Council (USHBC) has done a tremendous job in promoting the health benefits of blueberries,” said Powell.
Recognition of the benefits that blueberries offer will continue to increase demand for the product in the years to come.
New varieties which create a favorable eating experience to customers also contribute to the growth of the industry.
Locally grown push
When local production in the state of Florida begins around March, import programs get wined down, making way for domestic programs.
For Wish Farms, a Florida based company, it's very important to support local producers and make sure they can pick their crops and sell the locally grown produce.