High quality, demand greet blueberry cropShippers of domestic blueberries report brisk movement, excellent quality and good demand as the deal begins transitioning from the East Coast to the Midwest and Northwest.

Record volumes were shipping out of New Jersey in late June and early July, and they could be even higher if growers had more hands to pick the crop, said Art Galletta, president and co-owner of Atlantic Blueberry Co. Inc., Hammonton, N.J.

“We have a really good crop, and demand has been very good,” Galletta said.

Talbert Nething, general manager of Byron Center, Mich.-based Hearty Fresh, reported a good balance between movement and demand.

“The price is not cheap by any means, but it is promotable,” he said.

Fruit quality was good in New Jersey and North Carolina in early July, but some growers in Georgia were having quality issues, Nething said.

Hearty Fresh was shipping about 23,000 flats of East Coast blueberries a week in late June and early July. Nething reported good color, size and overall quality on both duke and blue varieties.

In July, volumes will likely go down and prices could inch up as Eastern volumes decline and deals in Michigan and other states begin, Nething said.

Atlantic Blueberruy was in the heart of its blue variety deal at the beginning of July.

Peak volumes were expected to last into the week of July 4, with decent volumes through about July 22, when the New Jersey deal begins winding down, Galletta said.

Suzanne Wolter, director of marketing for Yakima, Wash.-based Rainier Fruit Co., expected “even better” promotional opportunities as the New Jersey deal yields to the Midwest and Northwest.

“Thing are going well so far,” Wolter said. “We’ve had good weather, leading to great sizing and flavor. And demand overall has been excellent.”