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Promotion pays off for Chilean blueberries

Chile is now the largest exporter of blueberries worldwide and the Southern Hemisphere’s biggest producer, benefitting from the contrasting seasons.

After last season’s cold spells, Chilean blueberry exports this campaign reached 91,000 tons, meaning growth of roughly 22% on 2013/14 (74,653 tons), but only 5% on the previous season. The main markets are the US and Canada (67%), followed by Europe (23%) and Asia (10%), two markets currently growing in demand. This growth in the ‘new’ markets of Europe and Asia evidences the promotional and marketing efforts by exporter companies and the Blueberry Committee, which with the help of ProChile have dedicated consistent work and resources to the promotion of Chilean blueberries. “We believe this effort has definitely led to an increase in blueberry consumption in different markets worldwide, creating greater business opportunities for all concerned”, said Blueberry Committee CEO Andrés Armstrong.

Growing markets

In the case of Asia, the countries leading the growth of Chilean blueberry consumption are China and South Korea, where Chile has established phytosanitary protocols and which have now surpassed Japan, another country of interest in the region. “In Europe, the growth of blueberry exports to the port of Rotterdam in Holland highlights the impact of the Committee’s promotional campaigns in countries like Germany, Denmark, Sweden and Norway in Scandinavia, as well as the United Kingdom, which is the main destination market in Europe for Chilean blueberries”, adds the Blueberry Committee CEO. For next season, Chilean Blueberry and ProChile will keep up their promotional effort in these markets, in addition to the US and Canada, looking to open up new channels and consumer segments. They are also currently working on new phytosanitary agreements with India. 

Images courtesy of Chilean Blueberry Committee:

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Argentina’s blueberry sector has its eyes on Asia

Although the US and the EU are the most valuable export destinations, the ABC (Argentinian Blueberry Committee) is currently working alongside national organisations to open up new Asian markets.

Prolonged rains and a cold spring, resulting from the El Niño current, led to a slow start to the 2015 season. In any case, the pace soon picked up again, closing the year with volumes only slightly lower than the previous campaign. Although original forecasts predicted roughly 18,000 tons, the campaign is likely to end up at around 14,600, reports Inés Peláez, general manager of the Argentine Blueberry Committee.

New horizons

Although the US and the EU are the most valuable export destinations, the ABC (Argentinian Blueberry Committee) is currently working alongside national organisations to open up new Asian markets. Among them is Japan, which closed in 2010. Since then, ongoing exchanges with the country have taken place in an attempt to move negotiations forward. China has also become a priority as a new strategic market.

One important breakthrough was the recent visit by the technical team from AQSIQ (General Administration of Quality Supervision, Inspection and Quarantine) from China. This was the first ever visit, made to carry out inspections in the producer provinces of Salta, Tucumán and Buenos Aires. This is the first stage of assessment of the fields, pests and plant health risks.

“All the signals are good and we think that we shall soon be able to open up this huge Asian market,” said Inés Pelaez from the Argentinian Blueberry Committee. The committee is currently working jointly with SENASA to draft the necessary reports, as a first step towards the future realisation of a protocol.

There will also be other exchanges between plant health agencies, in the hope that 2016 will be the year the Chinese market finally opens up to Argentine blueberries. “The volumes now being exported by our neighbours in Chile amount to scarcely 20% of Argentina’s output. This makes China an even more interesting market for us,” Peláez said.

Quality and good flavour

Despite the development of the sector in other Latin American countries such as Peru and the potential competition, Argentina has conditions that other countries lack and the biggest challenge is raising awareness and appreciation of the quality and good taste of Argentine blueberries. Thanks to this, as different production areas are producing and exporting, if any unforeseen climatic event occurs in Argentina, another area can cover the shortfall so that the market is not undersupplied. This is why supply from Argentina is very consistent, notwithstanding what might occur throughout the season. What customers value is the stable market, consolidated over the past 20 years, with consistency of supply and reliability of all the exporters and the country in general. 

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Ongoing growth in UK berry sales

International Strawberry Symposium 2020: programme for the IX edition published

There’s been strong growth in retail sales of berries in the UK in the past year.

Driven predominantly by shoppers buying berries more often, along with a slight increase in the number of shoppers buying berries, and price inflation, the berries and currants market was worth just over £1 billion from 170,220 tons for the 52 weeks to December 6, 2015, having grown 16.8% in value and 12.8% in volume on the previous year, according to Kantar Worldpanel. The frequency of berry purchasing among berry shoppers rose 10.4% to an average of 18.1 trips with an average of 400g per trip.

Kantar Worlpanel data on berries & currants market

The strawberry market

Strawberries accounted for nearly 71% of all the berries sold in the UK.

The strawberry marked gained 10.9% in value and 8.2% in volume for respective totals of £546.7 million and 119,792 tons. According to Kantar Worldpanel, this growth was predominantly driven by shoppers buying strawberries more often, along with new shoppers and price inflation.

Kantar Worlpanel data on strawberries market

Strong growth in sales of blueberries, raspberries, blackberries

Blueberries, with 28,140 tons sold, accounted for 16.6% of berries sold, with sales worth £257.5 million, value growth of 26.9% and volume growth of 30.5%. This was predominantly driven by more shoppers buying blueberries, along with shoppers buying them more frequently and more per trip, Kantar Worldpanel said.

Worth £197.9 million from 18,358 tons sold, the raspberry market clocked 21.5% in value growth and 23.2% in volume growth. This growth was attributed to new shoppers and shoppers buying raspberries more often.

The blackberry market remains the smallest of the four, with a spend of £30.6 million from 2,786 tons, but enjoyed 20.3% value growth and 6.7% volume growth. “New shoppers and price inflation were key to growth, whilst there was a decline in trip volume,” Kantar Worldpanel said.

I, Prathyush Thomas [GFDL 1.2 ( or FAL], via Wikimedia Commons

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Report on the benefits of berry imports in US

Off-season berry purchases in the US are still small relative to in-season domestic production, indicating the potential for off-season supply has only been partially tapped.

What is the value to US consumers of the recent increase in the availability of fresh berries in winter? And how large would the consumer benefits be if these berries were available at in-season (spring) prices during the off-season (winter) in the United States?

These were questions examined in the report ‘Measuring the Impacts of Off-Season Berry Imports’ published last month by the USDA’s Economic Research Service.

“Findings suggest that additional supplies of these fruits from domestic off-season and foreign producers are especially valuable to consumers because they occur in winter months, when domestic fruit production is relatively low, consumers’ choices are fewer than during spring, and prices are high,” the report says.

“Findings also suggest that consumers would benefit from further reductions in seasonal production cycles. However, consumers receive larger benefits from making off-season berries available (having some berries rather than none) than from increasing supplies to the extent that off-season prices fall to in-season levels.”

The report says that the factor driving these consumer benefits is prices falling over the winter months—the difference between choke prices and market prices in the weeks in which Chile exports fruit. “On average, these declines range from 49% (blackberries) to 69% (strawberries).” (Chile exports strawberries, raspberries, blackberries, and blueberries during fall and winter. Mexico has also become a major supplier of berry crops to the US during winter but the study used Chile’s export season as a benchmark.)

The report says consumers would reap ever bigger ‘welfare’ gains should winter prices fall the level of spring ones, “which might occur if other countries began supplying the U.S. market or if there are advances in technology (either through improvements in domestic storage or shipping).”

Off-season berry purchases in the US are still small relative to in-season domestic production, indicating the potential for off-season supply has only been partially tapped. “Further advances in plant breeding or storage technology might make off-season supply quantitatively similar to in-season supply. Additionally, technological changes might reduce the cost of interhemispheric shipping, eliminating seasonality in the quantity of produce available.” the report also says.

Other interesting information in the report includes:

  • Per capita availability of fresh fruit is increasing in the US, rising from 106.50 pounds in 1980 to 131.04 pounds in 2012.
  • The berry share of fresh fruit availability increased 3.75 times (to 9.50 pounds by 2012).
  • Until the early 2000s, berries were unavailable to most U.S. consumers outside of their short domestic production seasons.
  • In 2012, fresh berries (strawberries, blueberries, raspberries, and blackberries) accounted for 16% of the retail spend on fresh fruit.
  • Highest monthly shipment numbers occur in June for blackberries, blueberries, and raspberries.
  • Shipments of strawberries are highest in May each year.
  • Retail strawberry prices in late December have been twice that of prices in May in recent years.

source: ‘Measuring the Impacts of Off-Season Berry Imports‘ by Carlos Arnade and Fred Kuchler, Economic Research Report No. (ERR-197) 35 pp, October 2015

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Lower blueberry volumes in Argentina

The Argentine Blueberries Committee (ABC) therefore doubts that the auspicious estimates of week 37 will be fulfilled; in fact, everything points to a 12% decrease in fruit volume on 2014, which would mean a total of around 14,500 tons for Argentina.

The late spring frosts are the main focus of attention of Argentine producers; however, nobody expected such a low start of the 2015 season. In addition, the El Niño threat is still dormant, since the forecast is for a rainy season.
The Argentine Blueberries Committee (ABC) therefore doubts that the auspicious estimates of week 37 will be fulfilled; in fact, everything points to a 12% decrease in fruit volume on 2014, which would mean a total of around 14,500 tons for Argentina.
Nonetheless, production is expected to resume its normal rhythm as of week 43/44, bringing a breath of fresh air to Argentine blueberries producers and exporters.  

Early Crop expects a productive growth of 30%

During 2014, Early Crop exported around 1,400 tons of Fresh Blueberries and around 600 tons of IQF blueberries (frozen), a significant increase on the 2013 season. With about 450 ha of its own production, located in the best agro-ecological Argentinian regions for the development of this crop, this year it expects a volume of about 1,800-2,000 tons for fresh and 700 for IQF and by 2018 to reach about 3,000 and 1,000 tons respectively.
The commitment of supplying the unattended demand during the Northern Hemisphere counter-season, together with state-of-the-art technology, resulted in a significant 30-40% productive annual growth.
Around 60% of the production is marketed in the US. New strategic commercial partnerships in the UK (24% of exports) as well as in Northern European markets, together with a consolidation of its own organic production (60%) enabled the company to maximise results.
Manuela Leyba highlights the fact that, “airfreight costs definitely raise the price of the end product, causing restrictions when evaluating new destinations.”
Strictly committed to quality and sustainability, Early crop aims to create economic and social environmental value throughout its management, following international quality and production standards. “Fair trade is part of our mission. We aim at improving the wellbeing of our people and local community,” Leyba said.

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Berries could help astronauts offset the ravages of outer space

Berries are the basis of a special high-vitamin food developed by China’s Harbin Institute of Technology to help protect astronauts from the extreme conditions of outer space.

Berries feature in a special high-vitamin food to help keep astronauts healthy during long stints in space.

The advent of space stations means longer periods beyond Earth and thus more exposure to extreme conditions – including the effects of space radiation and microgravity. But Chinese scientists says they have developed a vitamin supplement compressed food that will help keep space travellers well and that tastes good, too.

China’s Harbin Institute of Technology – which has unique programs in the field of astronautics – is seeking a patent for the food, which is prepared from freeze-dried blueberry, honeysuckle, strawberry, raspberry, kiwifruit and blackcurrant powder.

It says in its patent application that these fruits are rich in vitamins and a low-temperature compressing technology is used to ensure the vitamins are not destroyed during processing.

“Because blueberries, indigo honeysuckle, strawberries, raspberries, kiwifruits, blackcurrant and other berries are used as the raw materials for preparing the special compressed food, …(it) can supplement the vitamins and other nutrients and also can well prevent a series of physiological changes of the astronauts due to the change of radiation intensity and gravity in space under long-term flight in extreme conditions, and particularly the extreme-environment induced oxidative damage to the bodies of the astronauts,” it says in the application, published by the World Intellectual Property Organization.

Blueberries, raspberries and strawberries are also among fruits NASA lists as among its baseline space shuttle food.

The issue of astronaut nutrition was in the news this week with images of astronauts eating red romaine lettuce grown aboard the International Space Station as part of NASA’s VEG-01 experiment (nicknamed “VEGGIE”).

Image: Computer-generated artist’s rendering of the completed International Space Station (2006), by NASA [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons


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Argentina leader in early fruit

BERRIES Bluberries argentina Inés Pelaez

2014 a recovery year for Argentinian blueberries

In 2014, favourable weather accompanied the Argentine blueberry season, totalling 16,600 tons, meaning roughly 30% growth compared to the 2013 campaign, which was affected by a localised tornado with hailstorms in Entre Ríos and early frosts which affected all the early harvests in this province and Tucumán, resulting in 12,755 tons of fresh blueberries for export.

Argentina is the leading supplier of early fruits in the Southern Hemisphere, with 80% of early fruit (3,900 tons), accounting for 25% of the country’s total output. In this sense, its forte is not the large volume, but its leadership in early harvest blueberries. The country’s early fruit production has grown 200% from 2011 to the present, due to significant investments made in varietal reconversion between 2006 and 2012, the first results of which we are seeing today. These plantations have not yet reached full maturity, so Argentina is expected to keep on growing in this window.

The main destinations for Argentine fruits are the USA with 62%, then Continental Europe with significant growth in Germany, and the UK with 33%. Although the market share in Asia has increased, it has yet to reach a significant volume, and producers are still waiting for signing of the protocol with China, a market that remains impenetrable to fresh Argentine blueberries. As Inés Pelaez, General Manager of the Argentinian Blueberry Committee, explains, “China has a total of 20,000 hectares planted for consumption during the season of the year when we are not producing, which means an ideal opportunity for Argentina to provide out-of-season supplies.”



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Berries in one in four UK shopping baskets over summer

More than one in four shopping baskets sold by mySupermarket in the UK had berries in them last May–August. The average of nearly 26% for those warmer months – up from about 18.5% over twelve months – shows the seasonal nature of berry consumption.

More than one in four shopping baskets sold by mySupermarket in the UK had berries in them last May–August.
The average of nearly 26% for those warmer months – up from about 18.5% over twelve months – shows the seasonal nature of berry consumption.
Sales of organic berries were consistent with this spike. From January–November last year, just 0.61% of all shopping baskets contained organic berries but this rose to an average of 0.81% for May–August, though the vast majority of berries sold were still conventional.
The berries included in the data were strawberries, assorted berries, blackberries, blueberries and raspberries and all were sold pre-packed.
The data came from, which said it is derived from its about 50,000 monthly shoppers.

Berry sales up in UK

Retail sales of fresh berries have risen 11% in both value and volume in the UK, Kantar Worldpanel data shows.

Figures for the 52 weeks to December 7 show total sales of nearly £893.4 million, up from just over £803,4 million for the same period the previous year. A total of 150,781 tons of berries were sold, up from 135,674 tons.

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Read more berry news on pages 104-111 of edition 135 of Eurofresh Distribution magazine.

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Peru’s blueberry exports up 230%

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Peru exported 1,226 tons of blueberries in the first nine months of this year – more than double its shipments for the same period in 2013.

According to Peruvian government agency Sierra Exportadora, the country’s blueberry exports from January–September were worth nearly US$ 12 million (FOB price)– up from just over $4 million for the same months last year.

With its busiest blueberry export months being September, October and November, it anticipates a year end total of $40 million. Peru’s blueberry exports totalled 1,349 tons last year, with a value of just over $15 million. It ships to countries including the US, UK, Holland and Hong Kong.

Referring to it as the “fruit of the century”, the agency said Peru aspires to becoming a major world blueberry supplier. Earlier this year the agency launched a project to establish raspberry production in the Cajamarca region, tipped by some to soon become Peru’s berry capital.


source: Sierra Exportadora


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Infographic Highlights Benefits of Berries

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Which berry can help reduce cholesterol and which one is rich in folic acid? What are the seasons for the different berries and what are their calorie counts?

The answers to these questions and many other interesting details about berries are in a new shareable infographic from Huelva Inteligente.

Based in Huelva, the origin of 95% of Spain’s berry exports, the digital marketing experts have provided an easy-to-digest summary of the kind of information shared recently at the Fresh&Life berry symposium in Madrid.