The season of Belgian berries began in April: raspberries – at the beginning of the month and blackberries – in mid-April. In recent years, the popularity of raspberries has grown significantly. The ever-growing popularity of raspberries is also reflected in the expansion of the area under these crops in the largest cooperative in Belgium.
The main variety is Kwanza. “This variety is characterized not only by a refined taste, but also by hard, red fruits and a long period of shelf life. This makes them suitable for export”.
The popularity of blackberries has also grown significantly in recent years. The latest data from the research firm GFK show that blackberry consumption in Belgium has increased by 59% over the last 5 years.
Before Easter, the demand for raspberries and blackberries was increasing, but over the past week, it has fallen significantly.
“Consumers have lost interest in soft berries in this cold weather”, informs one of the importers. Today, the majority of soft berries come from Spain, Portugal and Morocco, and the latest batches of berries from Chile are also on the market now. “The supply is more than good, especially in the case of raspberries. Prices are high. Usually prices start falling immediately after Easter, but this year importers are still waiting for it to happen”.
Despite the low temperatures, Italians buy blackberries, raspberries and red currants. A trader from the north of Italy reports that the red currants currently available on the market come mainly from Chile, and some of them – from the Netherlands. The average wholesale price of red currants is 19-20 euros per kilogram. The demand for blackberries is currently higher than the supply, so the prices are high – 20 euros per kilogram. Blackberries come from Mexico. As for raspberries, there are now the products from Morocco, Spain and Portugal. The price is almost 15 euros per kilogram.
According to the manufacturer, the Sicilian season started well in terms of both quality and quantity. “Sales are also going well. You can grow soft berries in our climes almost all year round”. In southern Italy, the raspberry season starts at the beginning of May, and the first blackberries are expected in mid-May. Germany, Switzerland, Austria and Eastern Europe are important export destinations for Italian berries.
Raspberries were affected by bad weather in the first months of the year. The harvest in Spain fell by almost 25%. Despite this, the prices remain affordable and without significant fluctuations, since the demand remains stable. Last week, the average price paid to raspberry growers was 5.81 euros per kilogram.
In Poland, the largest increase in sales of fresh raspberries and blackberries was recorded in the first nine months of 2020. The value of berry exports increased by 42% compared to 2019 and reached 23.4 million dollars. However, the growth in export earnings was mainly due to the growth of export prices for raspberries in 2020, while exports increased by only 14%.
Poland used to export much more fresh raspberries, but in recent years labour shortage, increased competition and falling prices on the world raspberry market have reduced exports. It is too early now to say what the volumes will be in the new season; however, the cold weather could damage part of the harvest.
The United States is experiencing a shortage of blackberries. According to a trader based in California, the harvest was slowed down by cool weather.
“A larger volume is expected, but it will arrive with a delay of up to 2 weeks”. An Illinois trader believes that switching to different varieties also affects the supply of blackberries. “The yield of the variety (Tupy) has been lower for several years, so the areas allocated for this variety have become smaller. In some areas, fruiting of (Tupy) ended early. Some other varieties also do not give proper results”. In addition to Mexican, there are also blackberries from Guatemala.
The supply of raspberries from central Mexico is stable. “Many people thought that the prices would fall with increasing volumes, but the demand is very good”, says the trader. In addition to Mexico, there are some plantations in Oxnard (California) but they have not yet entered into commercial fruiting. Prices for raspberries remain very stable – almost $20. New volumes will arrive, but the price is expected to remain at $20. However, the price of raspberries may fall depending on the volume from Central Mexico and Southern California. The peak of supply is expected this week, but delays can change that.
As for red currants, in January-February Chile supplies them to North America. And from March to June there are not so many of them on the market. This is a seasonal product, and in summer there are the products from the northwest of the country.
According to Berries Australia, the Rubus category (raspberries, blackberries, etc.) is undoubtedly growing the most, although it remains scarce compared to strawberries and blueberries. The executive director of the organization notes: “Raspberries have achieved phenomenal growth. Over the past three years, the volumes have more than doubled. Blackberries are a newcomer to the market with exponential growth in recent years, although it should be mentioned that it started very timidly”.
According to the Statistical reference book (Horticulture Statistics Handbook), the value of the berry category has increased by 11% since June 2020, reaching $1.04 milliard. Raspberries, blackberries and other berries have grown in value terms by four percent – to $216 million, and the volumes of production have also increased by five percent to 9,932 tons. Only a very small amount (13 tons) is exported. If you divide the types of berries, raspberries account for 75% of production, blackberries – 25%, other berries – less than 1%, and the supply reaches a maximum in the summer months.