GRAND JUNCTION, Mich. — Despite a late start, Michigan blueberry shippers look forward to brisk movement of high-quality fruit.
The crop is running late due to a cold start to spring, but it’s still early in the game, said Bob Hawk, president and chief executive officer of MBG Marketing, a partner in Salinas, Calif.-based Naturipe Farms LLC.
“We certainly feel we’re behind, but we’ve had some nice weather that’s helped it pick up,” Hawk said. “We’re at the stage where we can still catch up.”
MBG Marketing could start shipping Michigan fruit by July 15, shortly after the beginning of its northern Indiana deal, Hawk said.
Spiech Farms LLC, Paw Paw, expects to begin shipping Michigan blueberries in late June or early July, said co-owner Steve Spiech.
“Volumes should be similar to last year and the crop looks amazing,” Spiech said.
Blueberry acreage should be similar in Michigan this year, Hawk said.
“We expect demand to be very strong,” he said. “We’ve had a lot of interest in the Michigan crop.”
Michigan growers will begin planting new proprietary varieties developed by Naturipe at the MBG facility and grown in test plots throughout North America and South America, Hawk said.
Naturipe’s varietal development program was developed to fill holes in the supply chain in order to ensure the company’s 52-week supply of domestically grown and imported blueberries.
Varieties are chosen not only to boost volumes in lower-volume periods, but also for their taste, size, crunch and storability.
“These are the first releases of this breeding process,” Hawk said of the 2014 varieties.
Naturipe is releasing six proprietary varieties in all in Michigan and other growing areas. New fruit will not likely ship in volume for about four years.