Imported Chilean blueberries begin arriving this month. Meanwhile, citrus imports from Mexico and Brazil are expected to fill a void of available Florida citrus this season.
Chilean blueberry production is down slightly from last season, but that doesn’t necessarily mean fewer berries arriving by boat at U.S. ports. The South American country is the largest producer of blueberries in the Southern Hemisphere, exporting a total of 103,000 tons in 2016-17. Of that amount, 65.7 percent, or 67,707 ton was exported to North America, which is the largest global market of Chilean “blues.”
For the 2017-18 shipping season, Chile’s fresh export volume is predicted to be at 101,700 tons.
Chilean blueberry shipments should be back on schedule this year, with the peak season running from mid-December through February. The country had an unusally early start in 2016.
Shipments on ocean vessels should begin in late November, and ramping up in December.
Early arrivals are shipped by air because of the lack of fruit volume to fill the large shipping containers used by ocean-going vessels.
The majority of oranges imported to Florida arrive from Brazil and Mexico, and that total volume is projected to surpass what is grown in the hurricane-damaged Sunshine State this season.
Last season, Brazil has accounted for 46 percent of the state’s orange imports, followed by 44 percent from Mexico. Costa Rica and Belize are among the other countries supplying citrus. Most grapefruit imported into Florida comes from California and Texas.
The Florida Citrus Commission has approved an adjusted $17.8 million budget that takes into account an increase in imports that will help cover crops lost in September to Hurricane Irma.
The state Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services has projected a preliminary $2.5 billion impact to Florida’s agriculture industry from Irma, with estimated losses to the citrus industry at $761 million.
Even before Irma, the industry had suffered steady declines in production because of deadly citrus-greening disease.
The Florida Department of Citrus projects its revenue will come from nearly 59.3 million boxes of Florida citrus and 65 million boxes of imports.
Oranges will account for 53.7 million of the taxed boxes from Florida and 63.95 million of the imported boxes.