Blueberries from Chile to set new exports record
The latest Blueberries crop report shows the Chilean harvest beginning to progress as spring tilts toward summer in the Southern Hemisphere. Cool weather conditions had early-season export numbers behind projections, but all signs now point to a robust harvest and export market, as the season ramps up. Peak production and export of Chilean blueberries takes place in December, January and February.
According to the Chilean Blueberry Committee, production will continue to increase in future years, as Chile adds production capacity. Approximately 18 percent of Chile’s current planted area is not yet in full production, and 31 percent has not reached full maturity, so roughly half of all blueberry farmers will be increasing output in the next several years, expecting to reach 110,000 to 120,000 tons by 2015/16.
Chile is currently the second largest producer of cultivated blueberries at a global scale and also the leading grower in the southern hemisphere.
Chile has become the leading foreign supplier of blueberries to increase shipments to North America, and all indications are that it will continue to grow its export market. In 2003, Chile cultivated about 5,200 acres of blueberries; it now has more than 32,000 acres. About half of that acreage is either not yet in full production or has not yet reached maturity, indicating larger crops in future years even without expanding acreage.
Exports to the U.S. are projected to continue their upward momentum this 2011-12 season, rising nearly 12 percent over the prior year to a forecasted 78,000 tons. More than three quarters of total volume is expected to ship to the U.S. based on data collected by the Chilean Blueberry Committee, an affiliate of the Chilean Fresh Fruit Exporters Association. Chile is the world’s second-largest producer of fresh blueberries, and the largest exporter of fresh blueberries to the United States.
The continued growth of exports to the U.S. is attributed to growing demand among American consumers for top-quality fresh blueberries, combined with increased production by Chilean producers. Winter consumption in the U.S. is still one-third of what is being consumed during peak summer months. This year’s slowing of the rate of growth in U.S. imports, compared to last season’s 44 percent increase, is the anticipated result of lower production after last season’s super crop, coupled with increasing demand from the frozen and industrial markets.
Export of Chile’s “Little Blue Dynamos*” to U.S. and Canadian markets this year is supported by an aggressive multi-tiered promotion campaign aimed at getting the berries into more stores, restaurants and consumer kitchens during the North American winter.
With a growing season opposite that of the U.S., Chilean blueberries don’t compete with their northern counterparts, but help build a stronger year-round market for both American and Chilean blueberry farmers. “Fresh blueberries are the most antioxidant-rich fruit grown on earth. Their nutritional properties and contribution to a healthful lifestyle are unparalleled. We are committed to an aggressive awareness campaign to bring the virtues of these little blue dynamos to the attention of consumers throughout the U.S. and Canada, peaking at the time of year when most of us make a commitment to more healthful eating,” said Tom Tjerandsen, Managing Director of the Chilean Fresh Fruit Association. “To help reach consumers we’re planning outreach through our network of retailers, foodservice operators, and consumer media.”
The CBC’s North American promotion campaign will ramp up in November, culminating with a major push during the holiday season at the end of December and beginning of January. American and Canadian consumers will be educated about the nutritional virtues of blueberries and the availability of this traditional “summer” fruit during the North American winter.
Extensive trade, foodservice and consumer print, digital, and broadcast media publicity will be championed by leading nutritionists, wellness, and weight loss experts while promotional and collateral support at the retail and foodservice level will be in place to attract consumers’ attention and generate record volume in 2011-12. The U.S. – the largest importer of Chilean blueberries – is forecast to import 65,500 tons of fresh blueberries in the new season. The CBC projects a total 78,000 tons of blueberries for export from Chile this year, compared to last year’s total of 69,660 tons, — an increase of 12%.
The Chilean fruit-growing industry has developed rapidly over the last two decades and has become one of the pillars of the Chilean economy. The country is characterised by its diverse geography, and spans over 4,000 km from north to south. Consequently, it has a variety of climates, which allow for the production of a broad range of fruits. Chile consistently produces high quality fruit and the Chilean standard on Good Agricultural Practices (ChileGAP®) has been endorsed and certified by Eurepgap and by Davis Fresh through its ProSafe Certified program.
Although over 80 percent of Chile’s blueberries go to the US market, exports to Europe are increasing. Blueberries from the South, a collaboration between blueberry growers in Chile, Argentina and Uruguay, last year started a major campaign to promote blueberries in Europe.
The Chilean Blueberry Committee, an organization linked to the Chilean Fresh Fruit Exporters Association, aims to increase the long-term competitiveness of the Chilean fresh blueberry industry and to develop multiple international markets for fresh blueberries from Chile. To support all of this production growth, the Chilean Blueberry Committee is undertaking an aggressive promotion campaign in major U.S. markets, positioning their product as “Little Blue Dynamos” by promoting their health and flavor message through trade and consumer marketing initiatives.
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