Rabobank forecasts long-term rise in global blueberry exports, with consumption robust despite inflationary environment

Rabobank has said that the future of the blueberry business looks positive, with growth in the sector to continue as operational efficiency and premiumisation transforms the industry.

Blueberries in open punnets

The RaboResearch Food and Agribusiness Blueberry Update 2023 report said that North America, particularly the US, would remain the largest destination market for fresh and frozen blueberries, with Peru, Mexico, and Chile being the largest exporters in the fresh category.

“Supply-side challenges such as logistics and input costs are easing, but margin pressures will continue to prompt the industry to improve efficiency and productivity, including variety upgrades,” said David Magaña, senior analyst – fresh produce at Rabobank.

“The industry has also raised the bar in terms of fruit quality,” he continued. ”This will be critical for fostering further consumption growth. Despite the inflationary environment, consumption of blueberries in key markets has been quite robust.

“Adoption of new technology and varieties will be key to providing blueberries that will keep satisfying consumers globally.”

Exports to expand

Over the past decade, global fresh blueberry exports have expanded steadily, driven by a diversifying base of growing regions, Rabobank pointed out.

Countries with the highest growth rates in recent years include Peru, South Africa, Morocco, Mexico, Poland, and Spain.

Potential lingering effects of El Niño-related weather anomalies were likely to limit the rebound of Peruvian exports in 2024/25, the analyst reported.

However, in the longer run, Rabobank forecast that global fresh blueberry exports would resume a growth trajectory as yields improved in Peru and exports from other growing regions continued to expand.

By 2026/27, global fresh blueberry exports were expected to exceed 1m tonnes, Rabobank confirmed.

Largest suppliers

Peru, Mexico, and Chile remained the largest exporters in the fresh category, the report continued, but a warm winter in Peru delayed the harvest and will negatively impact yields and shipments.

Blueberries and other berries represent the largest share by value of Mexico’s agricultural and food exports, and the berry industry is the fastest-growing agricultural industry in the country.

Chilean fresh blueberry exports, on the other hand, have declined since the peak exports of the 2020/21 season, and Rabobank expected further declines in 2023/24.

According to Magaña, frozen blueberries ranked among the most consumed frozen fruits in the US market in terms of per capita availability and represented the fastest-growing fruit in the category.

US imports of frozen blueberries continued to expand, with Canada remaining the largest source, followed by Chile, Peru, and Argentina.

“The powerful combination of health benefits, convenience, flavour, and versatility that blueberries offer will continue to be critical demand drivers, setting the industry up for success,” added Magaña.

Global Berry Congress Royal ICA Marks and Spencer Fruitnet

New concepts in retail store design, the latest advances in vertical farming, new investment in sustainable packaging, and the development of alternative markets are among the central themes of this year’s Global Berry Congress.

Click here to register for Global Berry Congress 2023

The world’s leading event for the berry industry returns to the WTC-Beurs in Rotterdam on 28 November with another top-level lineup of expert speakers and highly relevant topics.

The agenda  covers the latest trends and challenges that will shape the fresh berry category in the next 12 months, as well as game-changing innovations that will help the business to grow. Click here for more information.