(Oct. 4) A huge, high-quality Argentinean blueberry crop promises ample supplies of promotable fruit this fall, but importers don‘t fear a glut.

Berries from Argentina were trickling into the U.S. in early October, with volume expected by the end of the month, said Dave Bowe, president of Dave’s Specialty Imports Inc., Miami.

“We’re right on schedule,” he said. “Qualitywise, it should be outstanding. There was a mild frost before the beginning of the season, but it shouldn’t be a problem at all.”

The frost will put a dent in production, Bowe said, but the Argentinean crop still will be about 70% larger than last year. That’s because bushes that were planted three years ago are entering their heavy-bearing phase. This year and for the next several, those bushes will double their yields annually, Bowe said.

PACK OPTIONS

Argentinean shippers will search the world over for new markets for all that product, Bowe said, but a substantial amount of it will wind up in the U.S. To market it effectively, Bowe is trying to talk Argentina growers into selling more product to traditional retailers in half-pint and pint packs, instead of the standard 4.4-ounce packs.

But growers aren’t keen on that, Bowe said, because the 4.4-pack is such a profitable option for them. Growers seem more inclined to push 18-ounce packs at club stores, he said.

On Oct. 3, the U.S. Department of Agriculture reported prices of $23-24 for 12 4.4-ounce cups of controlled-atmosphere blueberries from Michigan, up from $18-20 last year at the same time.

SUN BELLE, TOO

Volumes also will be up about 70% for Washington, D.C.-based Sun Belle Inc.’s deal in the Concordia growing region of Argentina, said Maru Braemer, freight and farm coordinator. She expected good demand for the high-quality crop of emerald-variety berries.

“You never know what markets are going to be, but we’re very excited about having more fruit from Argentina,” she said. “Customers are excited about the emerald varieties.”

Sun Belle’s Argentinean suppliers switched to emeralds last year, Braemer said. The variety is very firm with a lot of bloom, she said. Sun Belle will import product from the Concordia region until mid-December, when the Argentinean deal switches to the Buenos Aires region, she said.