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Sunny Valley projects substantial increase in imported blueberries this season

Sunny Valley International’s primary blueberry import programs are from Argentina and Chile, with some product coming from Uruguay, according to Phil Neary, director of operations and grower relations for the Glassboro, NJ-based company.

“Timing on our Argentina deal is similar to last year,” said Mr. Neary. “Because we don’t source from the early production areas, we will start the first week of October with our first air shipments. Peak volumes will pivot around the few weeks before and few weeks after the mid-November time frame.

“We are hearing that the Argentina blueberry volumes will be between 25 to 30 percent higher than last year,” he continued. “I feel that we absolutely do have a market for the increase because most of the time the demand for blueberries exceeds the supply. There will likely be short pockets when too many berries hit the market at the same time, but it will quickly smooth out and prices should stay level.”

Sunny Valley uses the “South Atlantic” label on Argentina product. Pack size options will be 4.4-ounce clamshells packed 12 to a case, six-ounce clamshells packed 12 to a case, pints packed 12 to a case and 18-ounce clamshells packed eight or 12 to a case.

Mr. Neary said that Chilean blueberry shipments might be a little more sporadic. One of Sunny Valley’s Chilean grower groups has shipped by air even sooner than its Argentina supplier has shipped in the past. This year, air shipments are expected to start in mid-October, followed with container loads. Mr. Neary said that Chile is also reporting a strong crop, and he expects to see a 25 percent increase from the country this year.

The primary labels used by Sunny Valley on its Chilean blueberries are “South Pacific,” “Easter Island,” “Agricamex” and “Xfru,” although it does use some others. Mr. Neary said that pack sizes from Chile will be 4.4-ounce clamshells by air shipment, followed by six-ounce clamshells, pints and 18-ounce clamshells in containers.

The company’s third-party handler in Miami sees the product into the country, and Sunny Valley is highly satisfied

“Our main supply comes through Miami,” said Mr. Neary. “They are top quality-control handlers, and only highly qualified people handle the fruit. We’re very comfortable with our handling there. We will also bring some supply in through JFK to Glassboro, so we will be shipping some from New Jersey,” he added.

Transitions from air to container will happen when volumes really hit in October, November and December. Containers take about two and a half weeks to arrive in the United States. Peak production is containerized and runs from early to mid-January through mid-February.

“Our primary grower groups are those that run a little later in the season,” said Mr. Nearly. “There is some production in northern Chile that comes on earlier, but our peak is from the Osorno, Chile area.” He added that Eastern Propak, also in Glassboro, which packs for Sunny Valley, has the capability to repack the blueberries if necessary. “It’s a strength that we have in that we can convert to different pack styles or repack blueberries,” said Mr. Neary. “When we ship blueberries from New Jersey, we’re able to offer good delivery with high-quality berries.”

Sunny Valley’s organic Chilean blueberries will be available from mid-November to mid-January.