Late Georgia blueberry deal beginning promotable volume

06/04/2014 12:20:00 PM
Doug Ohlemeier

Blueberries run on the packing line at MBG Marketing’s Alma, Ga., packinghouse.Doug OhlemeierIn late May, blueberries run on the packing line at MBG Marketing’s Alma, Ga., packinghouse. By mid-June, Georgia should produce large supplies of fruit suitable for aggressive retail promotions, shippers report. ALMA, Ga. — Retailers can expect abundant supplies of blueberries for promotions as Georgia enters peak production season.

From June 11-25, buyers should expect a concentrated production peak of the brightwell variety, which is the leading rabbiteye variety, said Mario Flores, director of blueberry product management for Salinas, Calif.-based Naturipe Farms LLC.

In early June, growers were finishing harvesting the Southern Highbush crop and starting the rabbiteye varieties.

The transition between the crops follows the Southern Highbush deal, which peaked in mid-May after starting in late April, about a week later than normal, shippers report.

The state’s production regions are usually have staggered starts of harvests, but this year, the Alma and Baxley production areas are aligned and bringing fruit to the market simultaneously, he said.

Though growers were in a short lull between the earlier and later varieties, growers were harvesting fruit every day and there isn’t any shortage of supply.

“Even though this season is more of an average crop, when things bunch-up, it will feel like a big crop during that peak period when a lot of fruit will come to the marketplace,” Flores said June 3. “There’s really going to be great retail promotional opportunities to aggressively promote Georgia blueberries in multiple packs all the way through the Fourth of July.”

On June 3, the U.S. Department of Agriculture reported moderate demand for flats of 12 1-pint cups with lids medium-large which were selling for $16-18.50.

In early June, Georgia blueberry growers were transitioning from their early season Southern Highbush crop to the later season rabbit eye crop.Doug OhlemeierIn early June, Georgia blueberry growers were transitioning from their early season Southern Highbush crop to the later season rabbit eye crop. The state is expecting to bring large volumes of fruit to the market in mid-June. Last year in mid-June, the USDA reported those same flats garnering $18-20.

Miami-based Alpine Fresh planned to begin harvesting the rabbiteye crop June 7.

“The rabbiteyes should come on perfectly,” Stacy Spivey, Alpine’s Vidalia-based North American berry program director, said June 4. “The quality is still good here in Georgia, but it isn’t as pristine as the first harvests. The rabbiteyes look really good.”

In late May, Alpine began harvesting fruit from White Lake, N.C., and Spivey said he’s hearing Michigan production could start in mid-July, 7-10 days later than usual.

Georgia should harvest through July 7, he said.

Similar to the Southern Highbush, the rabbiteyes are running a week or so late in starting.

Alpine’s production is focused on Alma and Baxley and this season’s tardiness compares to last year when production started a week earlier than usual, Spivey said.

Naturipe packs pints, 18- and 24-ounce and 2-pound clamshells through Georgia facilities of Grand Junction, Mich.-based MBG Marketing.



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