Organic blueberries are leading the way with regard to organic fruit from Chile, but growers are also adding other organic fruits to the mix with the overall category registering strong growth.
The blueberry is clearly the star of Chile’s organic fruit offerings as shipments to the United States jumped almost 25 percent last season (2018-19) and even larger gains are being realized in the early part of the 2019-20 campaign.
In fact, shipments of organic blueberries from Chile to the United States in the month of October, which is when shipments basically began, more than doubled and shipments have continued to outpace last season in November. For the first two weeks of November, organic shipments were up 40 percent. No one expects the same percentage increase to be maintained throughout the season, but Chile is clearly focusing attention on the organic category.
“We see some unique marketing opportunities with organic blueberries,” said Karen Brux, managing director of the Chilean Fresh Fruit Association. “In the U.S., total organic fresh produce sales hit $5.6 billion in 2018.
Karen Brux, managing director, Chilean Fresh Fruit Association
The exciting part about this for us is that in terms of absolute dollars, blueberries saw the biggest increase, with the organic blueberry category growing by $63.9 million. Chile is the Southern Hemisphere's premier supplier of organic blueberries, and our organic production continues to grow.”
Brux added that in the last five years, organic blueberry production from Chile has grown from six percent of its total blueberry volume to 12 percent last year. When this year is over, organic blueberries should account for an even large share of Chile’s total blueberry production.
Chilean growers are seeing competition on the blueberry front from other suppliers – most notably Peru – and have identified the organic sector as an area of differentiation. “We have a long history of working with retailers across the country to promote Chilean blueberries, and we’re now extending that support to organic-specific promotions,” Brux noted. “We’re committed to expanding the entire blueberry category, so it’s key that we work with retailers to drive sales of both conventional and organic blueberries.”
Brux said supplies typically increase in October and November and then enter the peak shipping period in mid-December which lasts into February. Last year, organic production peaked during the first week of February, dropping off rapidly after that and ending in early March.
Retailers should be able to find very good supplies of organic blueberries, in plenty of time for holiday merchandising, Brux said this week. By mid-January, weekly shipments of organic blueberries should be more than double what they were in December allowing for promotional opportunities.
Chile is also making inroads on other organic winter fruit. Organic grapes from Chile are not possible because of the fumigation protocol required by the USDA for shipments into this country. But there have been efforts over the last few years to transition some stone fruit acreage to organic production.
Nolan Quinn of Summit Produce Inc.
Nolan Quinn of Summit Produce Inc., headquartered in Fresno, CA, said his company will be marketing a limited volume of organic cherries, white nectarines and red plums from Chile this winter.
The cherries are expected to begin in December with the nectarines and plums starting in early 2020. He said this year there will not be large volumes of any of these organic crops but the company does expect the organic volume and product line to increase significantly over the next few years.
Quinn said GESEX, which is one of the larger grower-shipper-exporters in Chile and markets its U.S. shipments through Summit Produce Inc., is continuing to increase the transition of orchards to organic production and will have additional organic winter fruit by next year.