US supermarkets face nationwide blueberry shortage

US supermarkets are facing a blueberry shortage after extreme heat in Peru, the world’s largest blueberry exporter, led to a reportedly poor harvest.

Peru has been crippled by the El Niño climate phenomenon, which raises global temperatures every time it purrs across the planet every two to seven years. according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

This year, El Niño brought hotter, drier weather conditions across the South American country, according to NOAA, causing a blueberry drought that reduced supplies by up to 70%, Forbes reported.

Last week, the volume of blueberries arriving in U.S. stores from Peru was less than half that of the same week last year. according to Forbes.

In a typical year, Peru ships about a third of its 1.3 billion pound blueberry crop to American grocery stores.

With that harvest reduced to about £390 million, blueberries have become an expensive luxury.

Nearly half as many Peruvian blueberries hit U.S. stores last week compared to the same week last year, according to Forbes, and all thanks to a warm weather pattern called El Niño.
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Since early September, the price of blueberries has risen as much as 60%, to nearly $6 per pound, according to Forbes, citing data from NielsenIQ, which analyzes thousands of receipts from U.S. retailers.

In the last two months alone, a container of blueberries increased by $2 per container due to the decrease in supply.

About 27 million fewer pounds of the sweet and tangy fruit will be sold in 2023 compared to last year, Forbes reported.

“This is the first time in the history of this industry that we have had such a large contraction in supply, due to the size that Peru has reached globally,” said Kasey Cronquist, president of both the Highbush Blueberry Council of the United States and the North American Blueberry Council. , he told Forbes.

“They were having an endless summer in Peru and, for blueberries, that has had a consequence,” Cronquist added.

Blueberry bushes need temperatures between 32 degrees and 45 degrees Fahrenheit to thrive, although Peru has been sweltering with El Niño-induced temperatures ranging between 59 degrees and 81 degrees Fahrenheit so far this year.

This spells bad news for the United States, which has come to rely on Peru for its blueberry supply over the past decade.

In 2013, Peru shipped its first batch of blueberries worth more than 1 million pounds to the United States, according to Forbes.

Poor bushel harvests of blueberries have driven up the price of the fruit, to about $6 per pound.
Poor bushel harvests of blueberries have driven up the price of the fruit, to about $6 per pound.

By 2020, Peru was the largest supplier of blueberries to the United States, and by 2022, the United States imported more than 339 million pounds of Peruvian blueberries.

Cronquist said the blueberry industry is working to generate different varieties of fruit that are more resistant to heat.

By spring, once the North American blueberry growing season begins and growth picks up in the top 10 blueberry-producing states (Oregon, Washington, Georgia, Michigan, California, New Jersey, North Carolina, Florida, Texas and Minnesota), Cronquist told Forbes. that the shortage will come to an end and prices will cool.

The Post has requested comment from the U.S. Highbush Blueberry Council and the North American Blueberry Council.

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