A Storm and a Strike Hit Blueberry Giant's Global Supply Plans

(Bloomberg) -- Getting hold of blueberries for your breakfast pancakes might get harder this season as the largest exporter of the so-called super food grapples with the impact of a hailstorm and a month-long port strike.

Some Chilean farmers lost all their blueberry crop in November when heavy rains and hail hit central Chile, where most of the berries are grown. The magnitude of the losses isn’t clear, but those who salvaged their harvest are now facing delays to shipments as stevedores at the port of Valparaiso rack up a 28th day on strike.

A Storm and a Strike Hit Blueberry Giant's Global Supply Plans

The labor protests come at the worst possible time for Chile and blueberry fanatics across the globe because the nation’s growers, who produce more than 100,000 metric tons a year, start harvesting in December.

Stevedores in Valparaiso, which ships about half of Chile’s fruit production, have no intention of going back to work until their wage demands are met. Nearly 500 contractors at one of the port’s terminals -- who load everything from copper to wine -- are demanding a one-time payment of about $3,600 and better working conditions.

“The strike will continue,” Pablo Klimpel, a union leader, said by telephone from Valparaiso. “We are tired, obviously, but if we surrender now we’ll be fired -- our only option is to continue.”

Much of Chile’s harvest is being re-directed to the San Antonio port further south, but that is creating backlogs.

“San Antonio is coping at the moment,” said Juan Inostroza, who works in the exports department of Hortifrut SA, a major shipper of blueberries and cherries. “But there’s been a little bit of congestion.”

©2018 Bloomberg L.P.