HAMMONTON, N.J. — Warm winter and spring conditions should bring New Jersey blueberries to the market earlier than normal.
Diamond Blueberry Inc.’s growers plan to begin harvests June 7-8, a week earlier than the typical mid-June start, said Tim Wetherbee, sales manager.
“The mild winter and mild spring we’ve had has been moving things up. Overall, we have had a good growing season and the bloom is far along.”
The high-yielding duke variety, the deal’s first significant variety, begins strong production and immediately places the deal into peak production, Wetherbee said. The bluecrop variety starts on July 4.
Wetherbee said the transition from Georgia and North Carolina, which he said finishes in early to mid-June, generally works well as there normally isn’t a lot of volume on the market just before New Jersey commences.
Wetherbee said retail chains are usually eager to start a new producing region. Michigan production typically begins in late June and ships in earnest in early to mid-July and continues through early September.
With 900 acres, similar to last year, Diamond Blueberry is the grower-owned sales agent for Variety Farms Inc. and Bridge Avenue Farms.
Glassboro-based Sunny Valley International, the sales agent for Jersey Fruit Cooperative Association Inc., plans to begin harvesting during the first week of June, earlier than the normal mid-June start, said Bob Von Rohr, marketing and customer relations manager.
“All things look good,” Von Rohr said in mid-May.
“Though we had a warm winter, we had plenty of moisture and chill hours. We are looking for a good crop and see no problems at all.”
Von Rohr said New Jersey growers usually aggressively market their crop for their short seven- to eight-week window. He said prices normally decline as North Carolina’s season progresses.
Von Rohr said Fourth of July remains the biggest draw for New Jersey berries. He said retailers like to advertise red, white and blue berries and said demand leading up to the holiday strengthens and helps stabilize prices.
He said the state should hit peak production in late June.
Sunny Valley’s growers plan to ship 750,000 12-count equivalent cases of pints this season, similar to last season, Von Rohr said.
The growers ABI Imports Inc. represents plan to begin production in late May with the weymouth variety.
“We are expecting exceptional quality,” Chris Bowe, president, said in mid-May. “We are out promoting them already.”
ABI’s growers grow on 1,200 acres.
Freshwave Fruit & Produce LLC, Vineland, plans to begin harvesting in early June.
Tom Consalo, director of sales, said that timeframe should see high volume of blueberries as Freshwave also plans to be marketing its Georgia and North Carolina production during New Jersey’s seasonal debut.
“We will have a lot of blueberries to move,” he said in mid-May.
“We look to have really good volume and quality, especially compared to the last couple of years when those were cut short.”
Consalo said recent seasons started late and finished early.
Vince Consalo, president of Wm. Consalo & Sons Farms Inc., Vineland, said the early varieties should start earlier than normal, although he said he expects the later varieties to begin in their normal slots.
“Talking with the growers, they can’t wait,” he said in mid-May.
“With the season starting earlier, we should be able to offer the Jersey blues earlier. We should get a better movement because we will be ahead of the other areas.”