Markets should be very strong when a late Argentinean blueberry crop finally begins shipping, probably by the beginning of October, importers said.

Fruit would likely begin arriving by Oct. 1 for Coral Spring, Fla.-based Dave’s Specialty Imports Inc., but even that is just a guess, owner Dave Bowe said Sept. 21.

Washington, D.C.-based Sun Belle Inc. expects to bring in its first shipments of Argentinean blueberries Oct. 2-3, said Janice Honigberg, president.

Typically Dave’s Specialty Imports is bringing in Argentinean blueberries by about Sept. 7, Bowe said.

“Markets should be very strong,” Bowe said.

Honigberg agreed.

“I believe (demand) will be tremendous over the next few weeks,” she said.

The week of Sept. 20, movement of Washington, Oregon and British Columbia blueberries was very brisk, Bowe said, and Honigberg reported low supplies in the market.

On Sept. 21, the U.S. Department of Agriculture reported prices of $22.50-24.90 for flats of 12 4.4.-ounce cups of medium and large blueberries from Oregon and Washington, up from $18-20.90 last year at the same time.

“They’ve had serious problems,” Bowe said of the Tucuman region of Argentina, traditionally the first to ship product to the U.S. “It’s been very cold, and they’ve lost a substantial amount.”

Tucuman volumes are projected to be down about 15% because of the cold weather, Honigberg said. The region accounts for about 40% of the country’s total blueberry volumes.

Volume shipments for Dave’s Specialty Imports wouldn’t likely begin until the end of October, Bowe said. Sun Belle’s volumes won’t hit until late October or early November, Honigberg said.

Despite the late start, Dave’s expected to bring in a similar number of blueberries from Argentina this season as last season, Bowe said. So did Sun Belle, Honigberg said.

The late start could actually wind up being good timing, Honigberg, if volumes begin hitting just in time to take advantage of Thanksgiving pull.

But Bowe said the timing also could wind up being a problem. Argentina could just be coming into full production at the same time Chile gets ready to enter the market, he said.