Exports of fresh blueberries from Chile are expected to set another record this year, increasing by 7 percent to 93,000 tons worldwide. The United States and Canada continue to be the leading export markets for the Southern Hemisphere’s largest fresh fruit producer, accounting for 78 percent of total production, based on data provided by the Chilean Blueberry Committee, an organization born under the auspices of the Chilean Fruit Exporters Association (ASOEX). Chile is the southern hemisphere’s largest source of fresh blueberries and also the largest exporter of fresh blueberries in the world and to North America.
The estimated increase in Chile’s fresh blueberry exports comes on the heels of a 21.9 percent increase in exports last year. The continued rapid growth in U.S. imports is attributed to growing demand among American consumers for fresh blueberries, combined with increased production by Chilean growers. The season is projected to peak at the end of the year and into January when the fruit is harvested in all growing regions.
“North Americans recognize the health benefits of fresh blueberries and appreciate the wonderful flavor and versatility,” says Karen Brux, managing director of the Chilean Fresh Fruit Association, the marketing organization for fresh Chilean fruit in North America. “Thanks to Chile’s counter-seasonal production cycle, consumers are enjoying them year-round.”
According to Andrés Armstrong, the Chilean Blueberry Committee's executive manager, “The Chilean blueberry industry currently has 15,596 hectares of blueberries planted throughout the country, only half of which is now fully mature, and estimates a 42 percent increase in production and exports over the next five years. Total exports of fresh blueberries are expected to reach 123,000 tons by 2017/18.”
Both consumers and foodservice operators are demanding year-round supply of blueberries, and Chile plays a key role in providing a consistent supply of high-quality fresh blueberries during the North American winter months, when domestic supplies are not available. “U.S. per capita consumption of blueberries has more than doubled since 2005, and consumption continues to grow. The availability of Chilean blueberries from November through March enables operators to keep blueberries on menus 12 months a year,” says Karen Brux.
To support all of this production, the Chilean Blueberry Committee will be offering marketing support for winter season menu promotions.