Raspberry Prices Should Weaken; Blueberry Stocks Flat

Peter Skolnick, president of Imperial Frozen Foods, has provided an update on the frozen berry and peach market. His Monterey, California-based company specializes in supplying frozen fruit to private label packers and industrial further processors. Skolnick’s observations on current conditions follow.

Raspberries
Chile is at the peak of the raspberry season. At the moment, with the US dollar strong and European economy weak, the Chileans might want to be a little more open to negotiation on raspberry pricing.

The US Pacific Northwest had an excellent raspberry pack marked by good quality, excellent yields and high pricing. The little inventory carried over from the Summer 2014 pack is now priced slightly lower than the price at pack time. The volume, however, is insignificant.

High quality IQF raspberries are coming in a little slower than anticipated, so pricing is not as low as it should be when one considers the strength of the dollar. If the dollar remains strong and Europe continues to have economic woes, then the price of high quality raspberries should go down.

Imperial-berries

Blueberries
Compared to last year, blueberry inventories are pretty much flat. Pricing is firm for large blueberries and a little soft on small and field run sizes. Chile had quite a successful fresh market in 2014, with very little product going to freezers. The wild blueberry market is lower than last year, with Europe not buying much from North America.

Blackberries
The Tupi blackberry from Mexico continues to dominate the fresh market. This has created a problem for producers in Chile, who can't really compete with Mexican suppliers. Currently there is an excess of supply of Chilean blackberries going to the frozen market and a corresponding drop in pricing, which is more than 10% lower than last year.

Strawberries
California’s strawberry freezer pack was average, at a little over 400 million pounds. The big surprise is the unprecedented demand. Cold storage holdings are down 25%, with over 70 million fewer pounds in storage as of December 31, 2014.

Mexico's strawberry season has just started, and pricing is higher than ever. Toward the end of January there was some catch up on supply.

Peru had an excellent strawberry pack, with supply and demand in balance. Chilean producers have not been competitive with their counterparts in Mexico and Peru for the last few years.

Peaches
California's peach crop was very short last year due to problems of drought, labor shortage and the replacement of peach trees with almond trees. There are no long-term solutions.

Organic Market
Imperial Frozen Foods has seen an unprecedented demand for organic berries. Organic fields have lower yields than conventional fields, which means that increasing supply to meet demand is a difficult challenge. Very limited supply and high demand means that pricing is up, with no end in sight.