El Niño Delays the Peruvian Blueberry 2023/24 Season

Fresh Blueberry
Published Jul 27, 2023
The Peruvian blueberry industry is facing a challenging start to the 2023/24 season due to the impacts of the El Niño weather phenomenon. Unusual weather conditions, including temperatures rising above the average, have disrupted blueberry production and delayed the harvest of mandarins and blueberries. Producers in the La Libertad region have been significantly affected, and there are concerns that the volume of blueberries may decrease by 10% to 15% compared to the previous year. Despite these challenges, blueberry producers remain committed to supplying destination markets, with the United States (US), China, and Europe being major destinations

The Peruvian blueberry industry is facing a challenging start to the 2023/24 season as the El Niño weather phenomenon wreaks havoc on the country's weather patterns. Since the season began in May up to mid-July, only 7.2 thousand metric tons (mt) of fresh blueberries have been exported, marking a lower volume than the previous year. The atypical weather conditions, characterized by temperatures rising between 39°F and 41°F, above the average of the last 25 years, have caused significant impacts on blueberry production. The flowering of blueberry varieties, like Ventura, has been delayed, leading to a longer blueberry season than initially anticipated.

Producers and exporters of blueberries, citrus, avocados, and white asparagus with farms in the La Libertad region have been particularly affected. The warm temperatures delayed the harvests of mandarins and blueberries, particularly affecting blueberries, leading to a longer-than-expected season in Peru. If the affected blueberry varieties do not recover later in the season, the volume is projected to decrease by 10% to 15% compared to the previous season.

The El Niño weather phenomenon, characterized by warmer sea surface temperatures in the central and eastern equatorial Pacific, often has far-reaching impacts on global weather patterns. In the case of Peru, El Niño brings warmer temperatures, irregular rainfall, and disruptions to traditional growing cycles, making it particularly challenging for the agricultural sector.

Blueberry producers remain committed to supplying their destination markets despite the challenges posed by the El Niño-induced delays. Currently, the United States (US) is the primary destination, accounting for 32% of total exports, followed by China (22%), Europe (excluding the United Kingdom) (19%), and the UK (13%). Other destinations make up the remaining 14%. La Libertad has emerged as the most productive region, contributing 50% of the export volume, while Ancash, Lambayeque, Piura, Lima, Ica, and Moquegua also play significant roles.

In light of the challenges presented by El Niño, blueberry producers are closely monitoring their crops and weather patterns to mitigate potential risks and ensure a steady supply to the markets. They are also exploring alternative measures to protect their crops from temperature fluctuations and weather-related challenges.

Source: Tridge

Despite the early delays, producers remain optimistic about meeting the demand for blueberries. The limited supply at the beginning of the season and the focus on air shipments with acceptable prices have helped maintain a consistent flow of blueberries to the markets. However, the looming El Niño weather pattern poses challenges with warmer days and nights with higher temperatures than usual during the autumn and winter months.

In light of El Niño’s impacts and blueberry supply fluctuations, maintaining access to new markets has become a priority for the Peruvian blueberry industry. Recent promotional, commercial, and sanitary efforts have resulted in market openings in Taiwan (2020), India, Malaysia (2021), and Israel (2022). Currently, negotiations are ongoing to open up markets in Indonesia, South Korea, Vietnam, Japan, New Zealand, and Ecuador.

The El Niño-induced delays have posed challenges for the Peruvian blueberry industry, leading to lower export volumes and potential reductions in production. However, with ongoing efforts to access new markets and the commitment of producers to meet demand, the industry remains determined to navigate these weather-induced obstacles and continue to supply the world with their nutritious and delicious blueberries. As the season progresses, stakeholders in the industry will closely monitor weather patterns and take proactive measures to ensure a successful and fruitful harvest.

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