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EP 3 💙📉 Key Updates on North America's Blueberry Harvest

July 22, 2022
10 min
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Description

🍎🥑AgriNow keeps you updated on news in the agriculture space.

This week, we covered the North American blueberry industry's production levels and price changes with Global Market Analyst Juan Carlos.

Tune into Episode 3 to hear more about the North American blueberry market.

💻 Want more agricultural insights?

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🎧 Find our transcripts and other episodes at blog.tridge.com/podcasts

Sections:

00:00 — Intro

00:52 — Forecasts on the US blueberry industry

01:33 — What factors affected blueberry production in California this season?

02:35 — Any signs of recovery in the US blueberry market?

03:57 — Canada's current blueberry season - forecasts and impacts

05:09 — How have current blueberry volumes affected prices in the US and Canada?

07:06 — Can the Peruvian blueberry market capitalize on low US production?

08:56 — What's next for the US blueberry market?

Transcript

0:00 Hey, thanks for stopping by. This is AgriNow, a podcast by Tridge. Stay in the now with Tridge’s agricultural insights and data.

0:07 Let's get on to the updates.

0:12 [Bea] Welcome to AgriNow, an agricultural podcast designed to keep you in the now. I'm your host, Bea Shim, and we're joined today by Global Market Analyst Juan Carlos.

0:26 [Bea] Blueberries are native to North America, and the country is also the largest producer of blueberries. 

0:32 [Bea] When it comes to trade, though, the United States has a negative trade balance, meaning that it is a net importer of blueberries 

0:38 [Bea] With high production and high imports, the US has a year-long market for blueberries.

0:43 [Bea] However, in the most recent season, which runs from mid-June to the end of August, 

0:47 [Bea] Domestic blueberry production in North America has decreased, affecting prices in the country.

0:53 [Bea] So Juan, can you give me the forecast on how much of a decrease the US blueberry industry will experience?

1:00 [Juan] Of course,

1:01 [Juan] Well, the most recent data and information that we have is that, due to the frost and some hailstorms in California, 

1:11 [Juan] the production in California, which is the first state that harvested blueberries –  has decreased.

1:17 [Juan] And the Blueberry Commission has also pointed out that it will decrease 15% compared to what it was last year.

1:24 [Juan] So we are expecting about 50 million tons of blueberry products, instead of 65 million, which are the ones that were projected at the beginning of the season.

1:33 [Bea] So what affected the 15% decrease year over year?

1:37 [Juan] Well, it was mainly unfavorable weather in California, in California’s high bush and low bush farms.

1:44 [Juan] It's very important to remember that blueberry production is divided into high bush blueberries, low bush blueberries.

1:51 [Juan] There are also the ones that are, for example in Michigan, which are cultivated blueberries.

1:55 [Juan] So, California is the leader of high bush blueberries and Michigan is the leader of the cultivated blueberries.

2:02 [Juan] So, for high bush blueberries, they depend a lot on the weather.

2:07 [Juan] So, over the winter, there was too much cold in California, which is not normal.

2:13 [Juan] So, that was damaging for the crop not to flourish in the springtime.

2:19 [Juan] You know, on time.

2:19 [Juan] So, first of all, there were delays, And second of all, there was some damage.

2:25 [Juan] So the California harvest season started later than what is expected.

2:29 [Juan] And besides starting later it also had an around 15% to 20% decrease in volume.

2:36 [Bea] I see, it looks like weather operations all around have afflicted this year's blueberry season in the US.

2:41 [Bea] But I guess the season isn't over yet until the end of August.

2:45 [Bea] So are there any signs of recovery in domestic blueberry production in California or in other states?

2:50 [Juan] That's correct.

2:51 [Juan] I mean the good news is that, today, blueberry production in the U.S.

2:55 [Juan] is wide across the nation and it's produced in different states and the rest of the states haven't recorded any damage this season, due to weather or due to other issues.

3:09 [Juan] So, for example, Oregon, Washington, Georgia and Michigan are very important states for blueberry production today.

3:17 [Juan] As I mentioned, Michigan is the leader of cultivated blueberries and Washington, along with Oregon, and along with California are three more producing states.

3:27 [Juan] So, Washington and Oregon and New Year's as well are going to start harvesting in late July.

3:34 [Juan] So that produced volume we're gonna start seeing in the market in August.

3:39 [Juan] So yes, the production will recover.

3:42 [Juan] I mean it will be less anyhow, in comparison from last year.

3:46 [Juan] But the volume in the market from the gap that we're seeing today because of the California harvest, it will recover, that we're going to start seeing more blueberries in the market due to the production of these states.

3:58 [Bea] I see, I see. Well what about Canada? I understand the country is also a pretty large producer of blueberries.

4:04 [Juan] Yes. In fact Canada is the third largest producer of blueberries in the world.

4:09 [Juan] On the contrary of the US, Canada still remains, for the most part, a producer of wildberries, meaning high bush and low bush production, instead of also having a large cultivated blueberry production, which it is the case in the US.

4:25 [Juan] So, Canada has been really affected by the beekeeping crisis that it's seen all over the world, not just in Canada.

4:34 [Juan] But in Canada, the blueberry producers are still very dependent on the beekeeping pollination that takes place in the wild bush or in the high bush and low bush for cultivation for blueberries.

4:47 [Juan] And this crisis has been aggravated over the years.

4:51 [Juan] But this year has entered a new stage, where the Ministry of Agriculture in California has declared that most of the farms are 50% short on bees or some of them have no bees anymore.

5:05 [Juan] So this has severely affected the blueberry production in Canada as well.

5:10 [Bea] I see, I see. I'm hearing blueberry shortages all around in North America due to a lack of bees which play a critical role in blueberry cultivation.

5:18 [Bea] So has the blueberry shortage been reflected in prices yet?

5:22 [Juan] Yes definitely.

5:24 [Juan] For example, in the US, normally the season when the season starts of course as any other product when the season starts, prices go down.

5:34 [Juan] Because you know in the case of blueberries most of the year you can find blueberries in the U.S.

5:40 [Juan] Almost all year round, because they import from Peru, from Chile, from Mexico.

5:45 [Juan] But when domestic production comes into play into the market, then what is in the market is the domestic production, so prices normally go down.

5:54 [Juan] It wasn't the case this year.

5:56 [Juan] So the domestic season for blueberries this year in the US has actually started on a 62.5% increase from last year when the season started.

6:08 [Juan] So last year when the season started the price of a flat one cup, which is the measure for the U.S. for blueberries 

6:15 [Juan] I think it was $28. And the first week of July it started at $38.

6:23 [Juan] So it was a 62% increase from, if you compared it to, last year.

6:27 [Juan] So you can see very clearly, that the price has definitely been affected by this shortage

6:34 [Juan] And in Canada -- very similar

6:36 [Juan] The price increase from last year was at 44.7%

6:41 [Juan] Last year it started at $10.50 (USD)

6:44 [Juan] And this year the price started at $15.2 (USD) per kilo 

6:49 [Juan] So you can see also that Canada, in terms of prices, was also affected and the season started with higher prices

6:56 [Juan] This of course, as I mentioned, while we go through the whole season of the other states that are producing, prices are expected to start having a downturn

7:06 [Bea] With regards to treat dynamics, since Peru is the largest country the US imports blueberries from,

7:11 [Bea] Do you think Peruvian blueberry exporters will be able to benefit from the lack of blueberries in the country, by perhaps capitalizing on high blueberry market prices in the US?

7:21 [Juan] Well, that's a very interesting question, Bea, because actually, yes, Peru and Chile are the main suppliers for blueberries in the US

7:29 [Juan] Peru is actually the first supplier to the US

7:32 [Juan] However, Peru and Chile are not in season right now

7:36 [Juan] So they are not able to capitalize. Precisely, during June and July, Peru doesn't really export much blueberries to the US

7:45 [Juan] Because their season starts around August, the harvest season

7:49 [Juan] So they actually their export season starts around August

7:54 [Juan] So, if by August, there is still a shortage in the market, they may be able to gain some market there in the US and Canada

8:02 [Juan] However, maybe the country that can benefit more with this shortage in the US and Canada is probably Mexico

8:08 [Juan] because Mexico has a very similar season to the US and Canada

8:15 [Juan] Although Mexico has been increasing their production substantially, in the last years, of blueberries

8:25 [Juan] the production in Mexico is still very low to fulfill the US and Canada's demand

8:29 [Juan] But yes, I mean, we might find out at the end of the year that during June and July, Mexico actually increased their export volume to the US in order to cover this gap

8:41 [Juan] But again in the southern hemisphere the season starting around August

8:46 [Juan] So we won't see exports from Peru and Chile increasing until August, September

8:53 [Bea] I see, so unless there are other factors, prices in the US, in particular, 

8:56 [Bea] can remain pretty high until August when blueberries from Peru and Chile make their way to the US

9:02 [Juan] Well, correct, but there's also the domestic production that is coming from the other states that I think will alleviate prices as well

9:09 [Juan] All the production coming from New Jersey, from Washington, from Michigan, from the cultivated farms -- that will elevate prices

9:18 [Juan] But let us not forget that this year, it's also a particular year in terms of rising of agricultural inputs

9:25 [Juan] So the product that is coming from the other states is not going to come at the usual price -- it might be a bit more expensive as well

9:33 [Juan] So I think since the start of August we will see alleviated prices

9:37 [Juan] However, maybe not to the similar levels of last year

9:41 [Juan] So I think all through the season it will remain a bit higher

9:45 [Juan] But with more product coming into the market, it will be alleviated a little bit

9:49 [Bea] Thank you for your insight and time today, Juan

9:51 [Juan] Thanks to you Bea, thank you for having me

10:05 If you enjoyed this episode please leave a review, subscribe, and share AgriNow

10:09 Check out tridge.com/intelligence-data/intro for more price analyses and up-to-date insights into the food and agricultural industry