Blueberry supplies look ample for the summer, and grower-shippers expect a strong blueberry crop from British Columbia this year, perhaps even a record-setting one.
Marcos Nuques, West Coast sales manager, Giumarra International Berry, Los Angeles, said there should be plenty of volume for promotions.
“The Pacific Northwest region, from Oregon through British Columbia, is currently harvesting blueberries. There will be ample supplies through the month of July for promotions of fruit grown in this area,” he said.
Earlier, supplies out of Georgia and North Carolina were also good, said Eric Crawford, president of Fresh Results LLC, Sunrise, Fla.
“We had a fantastic season out of North Carolina with high volumes, yields and quality,” Crawford said.
Crawford expected to begin shipping blueberries from New Jersey around the last weekend in June. He said some of the early varieties were especially early this year, with small sizes on the duke variety.
“We only work in New Jersey for a short period of time and then we transition over to Michigan and British Columbia,” he said.
This year, Michigan seemed to be running late, and wasn’t set to begin until the second half of July, while British Columbia came in one or two weeks early, beginning around July 1.
As of June 27, Crawford said the British Columbia deal looked like it could include near-perfect quality and potentially record volumes.
Nolan Quinn, berry category director for The Oppenheimer Group, Vancouver, British Columbia, agreed the crop looked to be very large, as of the first week of July.
“We’re not sure how much larger it will be than normal yet, as we get into it more, there will be better estimates,” Quinn said.
Michigan didn’t look as promising in terms of supply.
“Michigan projected significant winter damage, and the estimates were that the original projection might be down 20%, but we’ll see more as we get more into it,” Crawford said.
Crawford said Mother Nature didn’t give Michigan the kind of luck it needed for the year.
“I think there may be tremendous volume in the market so even if Michigan ends up with a decent yield, the weather may put them at a disadvantage from quality perspectives,” he said.
That means growers will likely feel pressure to lower their price.
“They’ll have a lot of price and quality pressures on them. I think they may get squeezed the hardest in the North American campaign this year,” Crawford said.
Growth and demand
Crawford said he expects blueberry production to increase to match the increasing demand, especially if growers have good harvests.
“For the past few years, the southern region has had horrible weather and growers haven’t been motivated to plant a lot more, but after a year like this year, I think they’ll be ready,” Crawford said.
“Blueberry production will increase substantially after a year like this,” he said.
Already he has seen Georgia really increase its production, partly because of new variety plantings.
Caylan Gingerich, blueberry procurement, Gourmet Trading Co., Redondo Beach, Calif., agreed Georgia is a good example of increased blueberry production.
“Once a small producer of berries, in 2013 alone Georgia produced roughly 80 million pounds of fresh blueberries,” Gingerich said, crediting blueberries as being a “money crop” that encourages more acreage.
Still, growers want to remain cautious that expansion happens at a sustainable rate.
“There has been an increased interest in blueberries on the consumer end based on a plethora of health benefits as well. However, if the supply of blueberries continues to rise without the addition of new markets we will see oversupply of berries moving forward,” Gingerich said in an e-mail.