Michigan blueberries late, but big volume expected

07/15/2003 12:00:00 AM
Bryan Scribner

(July 15) Unfavorable temperatures during the winter months and a wet, cold spring pushed Michigan blueberries back about a week, but the Michigan Blueberry Growers Association, Grand Junction, still expects late July to produce high volumes.

Kirk McCreary, the association’s executive director and general manager of MBG Marketing, Grand Junction, said Michigan started shipping at the end of June.

The bulk of the crop, he said, would peak during the last few weeks of July, climbing from about 160,000 to 360,000 flats per week.

Marilyn Redder, sales manager at Greg Orchards & Produce Inc., Benton Harbor, Mich., said that while volume wasn’t significant in early July, a decent spring should help the crop. Greg Orchards ships about 20,000 flats each year.

“We haven’t had a good season in quite a while, and we’re looking at a good one this year,” she said.

GOOD QUALITY, LARGE SIZE

Despite a summer drought and cold winter temperatures, McCreary said blueberries have been of good quality and size. Only processed berries had minor problems last fall because of stress on the bushes.

“It’s one of those quirks of nature,” he said. “The fresh variety came through the winter in good shape.”

This season seems to have offered good growing conditions. Excessive heat, Redder said, has not been a factor.

“I grew up on a blueberry farm, and this is what you want,” she said.

PRICES

Mid-July prices of Michigan earliblue and bluetta medium-large were about $14 for 12 1-pint cups with lids. Prices during the same time in 2001 and 2002 were $11-13.

McCreary said 2003 prices would most likely compare with seasons past, thus keeping competition between Michigan and New Jersey to a minimum.

Redder disagrees.

She said economic conditions have resulted in more price-conscious buyers.

“It’s just a matter of where the numbers are,” she said. “They’ve had some big weeks.”

South New Jersey prices mid-July were about $12 for bluecrop flats of 12 1-pint cups with lids. Growers were in peak production.

Tim Wetherbee, sales manager at Diamond Blueberry Inc., Hammonton, N.J., said July 11 that his company’s crop was two weeks behind. He said weather conditions have not been as dry as desirable, which resulted in a June 25 start.

“We’ve been playing catch-up from the very beginning,” he said.

Diamond ships 1 million flats per year, and Wetherbee said the firm was about half through on July 11. The New Jersey season, he said, typically ends mid-August.

Wetherbee said he expected Michigan would compete with New Jersey about July 20.



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