US supermarkets grapple with nationwide blueberry shortage

US supermarkets grapple with nationwide blueberry shortage

American supermarkets are facing a blueberry shortage after extreme heat in Peru — the largest exporter of blueberries in the world — resulted in a stingy harvest, according to reports.

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

This year, El Niño sparked warmer and drier weather conditions across the South American country, per the NOAA, causing a blueberry drought that’s slashed supplies as much as 70%, Forbes reported.

Last week, the volume of blueberries that reached US stores from Peru was less than half of what it was the same week a year ago, according to Forbes.

In a typical year, Peru sends about one-third of its 1.3 billion pounds of its blueberry crop to American grocery stores.

With that harvest hacked down to some 390 million pounds, blueberries have become a pricey treat.


Nearly half as many blueberries from Peru reached American stores last week compared to the same week last year, according to Forbes, and it's all thanks to a warm-weather pattern called El Niño.
Nearly half as many blueberries from Peru reached American stores last week compared to the same week last year, according to Forbes, and it’s all thanks to a warm-weather pattern called El Niño.
Getty Images

Since the beginning of September, the price of blueberries have surged as much as 60%, to nearly $6 per pound, according to Forbes, citing NielsenIQ data, which analyzes thousands of receipts from US retailers.

In the past two months alone, a container of blueberries increased $2 per container in the face of dwindling supplies.

Some 27 million pounds less of the sweet, tangy fruit have sold in 2023 compared to last year, Forbes reported.

“This is the first time in this industry’s history where we have had such a large contraction of supply, because of how big Peru has gotten, globally,” Kasey Cronquist, the president of both the US Highbush Blueberry Council and the North American Blueberry Council, 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, though 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 US, which has come to rely on Peru for its blueberry supply over the past decade.

In 2013, Peru sent its first over 1 million-pound batch of blueberries to the US, according to Forbes.


Stingy blueberry bushel harvests have pushed the price of the fruit higher, to around $6 per pound.
Stingy blueberry bushel harvests have pushed the price of the fruit higher, to around $6 per pound.
AP

By 2020, Peru was America’s main blueberry supplier, and as of 2022, the US imported upwards of 339 million pounds of Peruvian blueberries.

Cronquist said that the blueberry industry is working to breed different varieties of the fruit that will be more resistant to heat.

By the spring, once North America’s blueberry-growing season starts and growth ramps up in the 10 major 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 and end and prices will cool.

The Post has sought comment from the US Highbush Blueberry Council and the North American Blueberry Council.

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