As it bounces back from a holiday season flush with product, the imported blueberry season is starting to gain traction. “Right now the majority of volume is coming from Chile and it’s about two to three weeks ahead of schedule,” says Luciano Fiszman of Redondo Beach, Ca.’s Gourmet Trading Co.
“The early harvest is thanks in part to a mild winter followed by a warm spring and hot summer in the region and in turn, that led to a volume-heavy market here. “There was a flash of product that started arriving in the market between Christmas and New Year’s, and the market saw a lot more product than ever before in that period of time,” says Fiszman. Meanwhile, the market wasn’t prepared to move that much product which in turn contributed to huge volumes. On top of all that, the holiday season is traditionally slow and continued to be up until last week, which led to lower pricing adds Fiszman.
Prices climbing back too?
That left low prices. “Pricing went to $10 on pints based on what the USDA says is typical at this time of year, we haven’t seen buying lower than $20 before,” says Fiszman, who notes that while the Peru blueberry season has just finished, product from Mexico is also filling the market. “But this week, we’re already seeing the prices starting to rebound,” he notes, thanks to a combination of demand increasing and the market being cleaned out of all that excess product over the holidays.
Quality is uneven
At the same time, Fiszman notes that he’s seeing mixed quality of product arriving. “I think there’s a lack of processed market right now for berries to freeze and for juice, so growers are taking their chances and sending more product to fresh market,” he says. “It doesn’t mean all the fruit is bad. Just mixed because with every shipment, there is a pallet here and there with some problems.”