Rain delays harvest, but growers expect good quality berries

05/04/2012 12:39:00 PM
Susie Cable

A year ago, the USDA reported flats of eight 1-pound lidded containers of large strawberries from Santa Maria were pricing at mostly $8 in Los Angeles.

Blueberry prices, however, were lower than they were a year earlier.

On May 2, with a steady market, flats of 12 4.4-ounce lidded cups of large blueberries from California were priced at $19-22 at the Los Angeles terminal market.

A year earlier, the same packs were priced at $22-24.

The overall blueberry crop in California looked good, Perkins said in late April.

The rains came at a time when they helped irrigate the plants, and the hail missed HBF’s growers’ fields, he said. The cool weather didn’t cause any damage, and some warmer weather in late April helped advance the crop.

“Overall, we have been lucky and it looks like a high quality crop,” he said.

Los Angeles-based Gourmet Trading Co.’s blueberry crops in Delano, Calif., were expected to be ready for harvest by early May, said Julia Inestroza, marketing director.

“We’ve had some challenging weather, but we’ve overcome it all,” she said. “There have been some cold mornings, but with the use of helicopters and water we averted a potentially devastating freeze and had essentially no damage.”

In response to demand, Gourmet Trading expects to market an increased volume of blueberries this season, Inestroza said.

In April, HBF was marketing California- and Mexico-grown blueberries from its partner, Hurst’s Berry Farm Inc., McMinnville, Perkins said.

The heaviest part of the California blueberry crop is in the San Joaquin Valley, he said.

Production in the southern part of the valley had just begun in about mid-April, and Perkins said promotable volumes should be available from about May 14 through mid-June.

He said he expects the earliest Oregon blueberries to be harvested in late June and Canada blueberries to be ready in mid-July.

In April, Brooks, Ore.-based Curry & Co. Inc., was harvesting limited volumes of blueberries in the Santa Maria region, said Matt Curry, president.

The company expected to begin harvesting around May 5 in the Reedley, Calif., and Kingsburg, Calif., region, which is its primary production area.

Peak volumes are expected in early May.

Blueberry crop quality was good in April and Curry & Co. was anticipating a good volume, Curry said.

“Early indications are showing excellent fruit quality and sizing,” he said.



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