Earlier harvesting opens Southeast blueberry season - The Packer

Earlier harvesting opens Southeast blueberry season

03/01/2013 04:38:00 PM
Doug Ohlemeier

The South and the West, which includes California, the Pacific Northwest and British Columbia, represent the largest growing regions, he said.

“What we are seeing is there is a lot more production coming on each year,” Villata said.

“A lot of the South and the West have new plantings that have gone in. The increases in the East and the Midwest are really new varieties being planted on existing acreage that are yielding heavier yields.”

While Georgia’s fresh production has remained flat during the recent years, Villata said that’s likely because of freezes stunting growth. He said Georgia’s new growers and expanded acreage are giving it a bigger share of the market.

Production in Georgia, the largest Southern producing state, jumped from 56 million pounds in 2010 to 69 million pounds in 2012, Villata said.

“Georgia is still continuing to grow a substantial amount,” he said.

The Sunshine State is also experiencing significant growth.

Villata said Florida more than doubled production from 10.5 million pounds in 2008 to 22 million pounds, all shipping fresh, in 2011.

“Florida has had some hefty growth over the last four to five years,” Villata said.

“They have some varieties well-adapted to conditions in the state that are bringing more berries onto the market. That allows us to offer higher volumes of fresh blueberries earlier in the season than they did in the past.”

North Carolina remains a key part of the mix, helping keep the volume of domestic berries consistent from spring to summer, Villata said.

The state’s mid-May to July production isn’t seeing much new acreage but production is increasing, he said.

Julie Woodcock, executive director of the North Carolina Blueberry Council Inc., Atkinson, said acreage has increased from 5,500 acres in 2007 to more than 6,000 acres in 2012.

“The percentage of fresh is higher than the percentage of processed,” she said.

“Not that we’re slipping, but other states are aggressively coming on. Georgia has come on very quickly and the same with Florida. We are No. 6 in the U.S. Only a few years ago, we were No. 10 in the world.”

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