Freezes delay Florida, Georgia blueberry deals

04/08/2009 12:00:00 AM
Doug Ohlemeier

Similar high prices expected

Flores said he thinks the market will be similarly priced to last year.

“There still isn’t enough fruit (on the market) to put price pressure downwards at this point,” Flores said April 6. “With Chile finishing up, there will be a good market for Florida and Georgia production.”

Flores characterized the Florida crop as a week to 10 days later than what many buyers expected, and said promotable Florida volume should hit by April 20. He said damage from January and February freezes harmed about 20% of the crop and left some scarring, discoloration and brought a higher cull rate.

Flores said he expects Georgia to start harvest a week or two later than normal in terms of significant volume. Naturipe has growers in the northern Florida area of Waldo.

Florida’s colder than normal winter temperatures affected only volume, not quality, said Kenny Nova, general manager of Bartow, Fla.-based Clear Springs Packing LLC.

Nova said the cold weather has brought out more berries and has helped increase sizes. He said the season so far has produced strong quality.

High quality fruit

Damage caused by the January and February freezes should lessen Georgia’s early crop but provide a strong late crop, Nova said. He said the later Georgia start should provide Florida growers an extended window this season.

When California production begins in mid-May, Nova said he thinks the additional volume could lower prices.

Flores said California’s deal, which normally ramps up the third week of May at Delano, Calif., should bring promotable volumes during late May and early June.

While Georgia volume is expected to be lower than normal, buyers should expect plenty of promotable volume in late May from California, Flores said.

Though Georgia growers could start production April 27, movement may not begin until May 3, Mixon said.

“There will be a lot of pressure in the market (then) for berries,” Mixon said.

Mixon, who said he expected Florida’s promotable volume to begin April 20, said SunnyRidge plans to ship 3.5 million pounds, down from earlier season estimates of a little more than 4 million pounds.

Flores said Naturipe’s growers expect Florida to produce 9 million to 10 million pounds, similar to last season’s 9.3 million pounds.


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