Michigan's early exit bolsters blueberry prices

08/08/2012 12:56:00 PM
Andy Nelson

Courtesy Naturipe Farms LLCBlueberry markets should hold steady through August as Michigan supplies wind down earlier than normal.

Thanks to an early start to the season — about two weeks — late-summer volumes of Michigan blueberries will be lighter than normal, said Brian Bocock, vice president of product management in the Grand Junction, Mich., office of Naples, Fla.-based Naturipe Farms LLC.

“We’ll have good volume for the next week or two, then it will really fall off by Aug. 27,” Bocock said Aug. 6.

The week of Aug. 6, Coral Springs, Fla.-based Dave’s Specialty Imports Inc. was sourcing mainly from Oregon and British Columbia, supplemented by “very light” supplies from Michigan and occasional imports from Mexico, said Dave Bowe, owner.

“Michigan is down, which is not helping things,” Bowe said.

Through Aug. 4, U.S. growers had shipped about 201 million pounds of blueberries, up from 194 million pounds last year at the same time.

Imports through early August are down, however, falling from 168 million pounds last year to 150 million pounds in 2012.

On Aug. 7, the U.S. Department of Agriculture reported prices of $19-21 for flats of 12 one-pint cups from Michigan, comparable to last year at the same time.

In early August blueberry volumes were lower than is typical for that time of year, Bocock said. Early September volumes would likely be similar to historical averages, and late September volumes lower than usual.

Because of lower volumes, Naturipe would likely switch from pints to 6-ounce containers about Aug. 24, Bocock said.

August can be a comparatively sluggish month for blueberry markets, Bowe said. But because of the low Michigan volumes, he expected prices to hold firm.

Early August prices were higher than normal because of the dwindling Michigan supplies, Bocock said.

Between fresh and controlled-atmosphere product from Michigan, Oregon and British Columbia, Naturipe should, however, have domestic and Canadian blueberries in the pipeline through September.

As of Aug. 7, no significant weather problems had reported in Argentinian growing regions, Bocock said. Bowe also hadn’t heard of problems.

By the week of Aug. 6, British Columbia had just passed its peak production, but the region was still running two to three weeks later than Michigan. August will likely see a gap between British Columbia’s duke and elliot variety crops, Bocock said.

Rains in British Columbia could affect quality from that region, Bowe said.

Fruit in early August was firm and peaking on mediums, with very good color and “pretty decent” eating quality, Bocock said.



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