The head of the Blueberry Producers’ Association of Mesopotamia Argentina (APAMA) is anticipating some 8,000 metric tonnes (MT) of fresh fruit will be harvested, compared to around 7,000MT last year.
Approximately 90% of the crop is normally destined for export.
Mesopotamia comprises the Northeastern provinces Misiones, Entre Ríos and Corrientes, and typically represents around 55% of Argentine blueberry production volumes.
APAMA president Alejandro Pannunzio said the harvests were running around a week earlier than last year due a warm winter.
“The fields are looking good and we have the potential. Last year the winter slowed down our production in the spring, but today the varieties are earlier,” he said.
“The growers have high expectations, and the levels of contracting labour are the same or if not higher compared to last year at this time.”
The season is expected to run until November, depending on water factors.
Mesopotamia normally sends around 65% of exports to the US and 30% to Europe and the UK.
Pannunzio said a challenging market situation in the US last year meant export volumes had not been as high as anticipated at the start of the season.
“Last year after October 15, the price dropped a lot more for the same date in comparison with previous years,” he told PBUK.
“The difference that Argentina had last year is that it found itself in the market with 25,000MT of fruit from Peru which was not there in previous years.
“Now Argentina shares its marketing window with Peru and so there is more fruit which pushes prices down.”
This year, however, Pannunzio was upbeat about prospects.
He said collective volumes from Peru and Argentina would be even higher, but anticipated average prices in the US would be roughly similar to last year.
He noted that as the Peruvian blueberry industry now had access to the Chinese market, much of their volumes will be shipped to the new destination. Argentina does not yet have access to China.
“Not all of their growth will go to the US – some will go to Asia and some to Europe,” he said.
He also explained that consumer demand for blueberries continued to exceed the 7% growth rate for all fruits and vegetables, creating good opportunities.
He also mentioned that the strength of the euro this year meant that shippers may put a little bit more attention on the EU to boost revenues.
Pannunzio noted there was optimism in the sector as production costs had decreased and regulations had been eased regarding exports.