(April 17) Florida’s blueberry deal should begin hitting its peak during the closing days of April, when very light supplies from southern Georgia will begin entering the marketplace.
But the transition from Florida to Georgia will be complicated this season by the effects of freeze damage sustained in some production areas in late February. May blueberry supplies, in fact, could be substantially lower and may complicate promotional efforts.
In mid-April, blueberry supplies from Chile finally were beginning to abate, said Mike Klackle, senior vice president of sales for Global Berry Farms LLC, Naples, Fla.
F.o.b.s for blueberry trays containing 12 4.4-ounce cups were $36-38 in mid-April, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture. That was a reflection of the declining supplies from Chile, where shipments this season were up markedly over a year ago and overlapped with the beginning of the traditional Florida window.
Florida blueberry shipments began in late March, but the deal “has come off to date slower than we thought,” Klackle said.
Weekly supplies from Florida were about 100,000 pounds during early and mid-April, according to the USDA.
Large production in Florida’s more northern production regions was just beginning to be harvested in mid-April, Klackle said. “We should be able to produce fruit out of north Florida perhaps until early June.”
Global Berry Farms, the sales agent for the Grand Junction, Mich.-based MBG Marketing/Michigan Blueberry Growers Association, appears once again to be the largest shipper of Florida blueberries. Straughn Farms, Florida’s largest blueberry grower with production in the Gainesville area, has returned to the MBG stable of growers after a one-year marketing alliance with Winter Haven, Fla.-based Sunnyridge Farm Inc.
Klackle said Straughn’s production represents nearly 25% of the entire Florida blueberry deal, which last year amounted to about 3.4 million pounds.
Georgia’s early blueberry volume, meanwhile, will be off drastically.
“This year, that crop is hurt,” Klackle said. “I don’t believe we’ll have anywhere near the supplies we had last year. Probably as we round into May, entering the second week of May and until other areas begin production, there’s probably going to be a two-week window with less supplies than in recent years, which could bring about higher pricing.”