Agronometrics in Charts: Adverse Weather Takes a Toll on Blueberry Production in Chile

By Agronometrics | 27 November 2023

In this installment of the ‘Agronometrics In Charts’ series, Sarah Ilyas studies the state of the Chilean blueberry season. Each week the series looks at a different horticultural commodity, focusing on a specific or topic visualizing the market factors that are driving change.

Blueberry production commences in November and concludes in March of the subsequent year, aligning with the cool winter months which are characterized by a requisite abundance of chill hours. Blueberry cultivation, renowned for its resilience and extended post-harvest viability in comparison to other berries like raspberries and blackberries, has emerged as a sought-after option for exporters. Heightened competition, notably from Peru, has engendered intensified market dynamics, constraining profits and impeding the expansion of cultivated areas over the past three marketing years. Additional challenges, including elevated transport costs, adherence to U.S. regulations mandating methyl bromide fumigation, and surging labor costs stemming from the aftermath of the pandemic have further compressed profit margins.

The Chilean Blueberry Committee, in collaboration with iQonsulting, has revised its export estimate for the 2023-2024 season. The forecast now anticipates exports of 76,500 tons of fresh blueberries, reflecting a 7% decrease from the initial October estimate and a 13% reduction from the previous marketing year. “This new forecast takes into consideration the effect of the rains during the first two weeks of November, as well as other associated climatic events such as frost and hail. We’re seeing a pattern similar to the average of recent seasons, which will generate an initial peak of more than 5 thousand tons in week 49. Meanwhile, the period of highest volumes, with up to 8 thousand tons weekly, will occur between Weeks 51-2023 and 03-2024,” says Andrés Armstrong, executive director of the Chilean Blueberry Committee.

blueberry volumes by his 24

Source: USDA Market News via Agronometrics.

(Agronometrics users can view this chart with live updates here)

Armstrong reported that, to date, exports of fresh blueberries are 18% greater than last season, and “the inclusion of new varieties and strong decrease of non-recommended varieties are dominating exports.” He also highlighted that, regarding the types of shipments, “air shipments have led exports to date with 1,422 tons and a growth of 170% compared to the same period last season. “Maritime shipments are starting to increase, reaching 495 tons, which is 56% less than what was shipped during the same period last season,” he says.

blueberry volumes by tra

Source: USDA Market News via Agronometrics.

(Agronometrics users can view this chart with live updates here)

While there is evidence of varietal changes within the sector, Armstrong emphasizes that these shifts are yet to translate into export volumes. The industry is actively working on transitioning to more cost-efficient cultivars, anticipating a temporary reduction in volume while enhancing its overall export base. Year-to-date shipments to the US are rapidly ramping up, with 276 tons exported during Week 45. In total, 892 tons of fresh blueberries have been shipped to the U.S. this season, compared to just 357 at the same time last year.

Armstrong explained that the main varieties exported to date include Ventura, the new CB1219, Emerald, Rocío, and Suzie Blue. Highlighting a key initiative for the ongoing season, Armstrong announced the re-launch of the Blueberry Express service to the U.S. This service aims to expedite the fruit’s presence in the market within two weeks or less. With preparations finalized, the committee anticipates the service to commence by Week 48 or 49, with a specific focus on reaching the east coast.

The Chilean blueberry industry is grappling with an array of challenges while strategically positioning itself to capitalize on emerging opportunities. Amidst weather-related adversities and global market fluctuations, the sector’s resilience, commitment to varietal change, and innovative marketing strategies underscore its pivotal role in the international blueberry market.

blueberry volumes by ori 23

Source: USDA Market News via Agronometrics.

(Agronometrics users can view this chart with live updates here)

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.

All pricing for domestic US produce represents the spot market at Shipping Point (i.e. packing house/climate controlled warehouse, etc.). For imported fruit, the pricing data represents the spot market at Port of Entry.

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 where you can easily access these same graphs, or explore the other 21 commodities we currently track.

Written by Sarah Ilyas

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