Mother Nature has cooperated with Oregon blueberry grower-shippers.
Long periods of unusually cool weather brought out the color while quick warming in the summer months increased sugar content, said Bryan Ostlund, executive director of the Oregon Blueberry Commission, Salem.
“Everything appears to be on track for what will be a record harvest,” he said.
The state’s record for the blueberry deal was the 45 million pound crop of 2007. The 2008 volume nearly eclipsed that record, coming in at 44 million pounds.
“We could surpass 50 million pounds this year,” Ostlund said.
Ostlund has no difficulty bragging on the state’s blueberries.
“The quality of our blueberries is outstanding, the Willamette Valley berries in particular,” he said. “It’s just a perfect area for growing berries.”
Yields from Oregon blueberry fields are among the highest in the U.S., Ostlund said. The average production from the state’s grower-shippers is in excess of 9,000 pounds per acre, he said.
Only about half of the crop will end up in the produce sections of retailers. Oregon’s blueberry production is fairly evenly split between fresh berries and processed berries, he said.
The demand for Oregon’s blueberries exceeded supply in each of the last five years, Ostlund said, but increasing worldwide production of the fruit is bringing more balanced supply and demand.
“That’s a good thing, good for retailers and good for consumers,” he said. “We’ll find this new threshold of supply and demand, and it’s going to be big.”
The commission’s marketing efforts are limited to in-state programs, Ostlund said. To draw attention to the industry during the peak of the harvest season, the commission works closely with retailers and farmers’ markets, he said.
Point-of-sale materials distributed by the commission include consumer pamphlets highlighting the fruit’s health and nutritional benefits.
Ostlund said he senses some uncertainty among Oregon’s grower-shippers because of the worldwide explosion of blueberry production. He is not apprehensive.
“Not that long ago, critics were saying we’d have oversupply trouble when the global industry reached 100 million pounds a year,” he said, “but we’re way past that now, and the demand continues.”