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Chilean blueberry production down from earlier projections

On Dec. 27, the Chilean Blueberry Committee, an organization linked to the Chilean Fresh Fruit Exporters Association, headquartered in Santiago, Chile, issued its week 52 crop report, which stated that exporters there were recovering from their export target levels during week 51.

A rainy period hit the south-central area of Chile before and after Christmas. As of Dec. 27, the weather front had passed and shippers were focused mainly on export Fresh-Chilean-Blueberry-LemFresh Chilean blueberry lemon sorbet. (Photo courtesy of the 2012 Chilean Fresh Fruit Association Media Center)markets in attempts to maintain volumes that were expected to help them recover from the lower export target levels the previous week. The frozen industry was most affected. As of the report release date, blueberries sent to processing were 30 percent fewer than expected.

Until the previous week, a decline was expected in the fresh export sector, indicating that 72,000 tons would be exported. However, this will not be the case because growers in Chile prioritized the fresh market over the processing sector. The entire harvest will be reduced, but the reduction will be mostly absorbed by the frozen industry. The revised estimate for fresh blueberry exports from Chile this season now stands at 79,367 tons.

Chilean blueberry exports jumped during week 51, reaching 7,812 tons. As of week 51, shipments totaled 26,094 tons, which is 5 percent less than the same week the previous season and 3 percent lower than estimated. Of the total exports of week 52, approximately 6,300 tons were shipped to the United States, and 16 percent of that figure was sent by air. The previous week, air shipments were 36 percent.

For week 52, approximately 5,500 tons was estimated, lower than the earlier estimate of 6,951 tons, due primarily to the heavy rains on Dec. 24 and 25, which impaired harvesting.

Stocks of frozen blueberries in the United States reached 89,135 tons Nov. 30, which was 31 percent more than at the same date in 2011 and 9 percent less than in October 2012.

Frozen blueberry consumption in the United States showed a rise in November, registering about 8,600 tons versus 7,600 tons in October and 4,400 tons in November 2011. The estimate as of Dec. 27, 2012, stood at approximately 82,000 tons in inventory, which was high for the time of year.

In late December, the season in the North Zone was coming to its end. Rains continued to affect the crop from the Center Zone to the south, causing further delays in harvesting.

Some blueberry volumes were still available from Region V, and Region VI was still harvesting the O’Neal and Duke varieties, but with decreasing volumes. In the Chimbarongo area, the O’Neal variety was still being harvested and was expected to continue until mid-January. However, this area continues to be affected by rain. Rainfall in the region was heavy from Dec. 18-20.

In Region VII, the O’Neal harvest continued in late December and was reported to be 70 percent completed. The Duke variety there contributed to the higher volumes. The Legacy variety was just starting, along with the Bluegold and Brigitta varieties, which were having their first picking in Linares area during the last week of December. In Curico, harvesting began week 50. Reports were that the berries had good sizing. Bloom cover was reported for Brigitta. But here too growers were concerned about more rainfall.

In Region VIII, the O’Neal and Duke Varieties were being harvested in late December, and the Legacy and Brigitta were starting at the same time, with heavier volumes in Los Angeles, Chile. There was also a reported lack of workforce in this region. The harvest was stopped by rain during the last week of December. The forecast indicated clear skies Dec. 28, but would be followed by rain again over the weekend.

The crop report also indicated that harvesting was expected to continue during week 52 in Region VIII.

In Region IX, the Duke was reported as the primary variety being harvested in late December. The Legacy variety began the previous week in Freire, and in Teodoro harvesting of the Schmidt variety was expected to begin the last week of December.

In early January, volumes were expected to be stronger in the south zone, and both the Legacy and Bluecrop varieties will start harvesting in all regions.

The U.S. division of the Chilean Blueberry Committee, in Sonoma, CA, takes promotion and marketing in North America to task. In late December it was promoting the perfect pairing of fresh blueberries from Chile in an elegant Fresh Blueberry and Pear Champagne Aperitif for a New Year’s Eve celebratory beverage, offering the recipe to the trade and consumers alike.

In a press release issued Dec. 27, the committee stated that not only does this aperitif add a dose of festiveness to holiday tables, it also packs a powerful nutritional punch. Fresh blueberries from Chile are a superfood. They are full of antioxidants and other important nutrients that help prevent disease and provide a healthful start to the New Year.

Chile’s harvest of fresh, ripe blueberries is in full swing during the North American winter, the press release stated. Ample supplies of fresh blueberries from Chile are in supermarkets nationwide.

More recipes for fresh blueberries from Chile are available at www.fruitsfromchile.com.