BARTOW, Fla. — Buyers should expect the Florida blueberry season to run longer than normal.
(UPDATED COVERAGE, April 12) BARTOW, Fla. — Buyers should expect the Florida blueberry season to run longer than normal. Though stunted by a February freeze, grower-shippers expect harvesting to run into June. Florida harvests normally finish by May 20. Those later shipments could help fill lighter than normal early Georgia volume, which also saw major freeze damage to its early highbush crop, said Jerry D’Amore, director of sourcing for Watsonville, Calif.-based Dole Berry Co. LLC’s Winter Haven operation. D’Amore said Georgia began packing minimal volumes on April 9 and said he expects volume to increase April 23. He said April is bringing strong Florida volume. The deal started March 12, about two weeks earlier than normal, said D’Amore. The deal typically begins in late March with significant volumes normally hitting in early April. “The cold weather has taken the peak and stretched it out a bit,” D’Amore said April 10. “The season will start to dwindle by the last week of May, but continue to have some volumes through the second week of June. Quality is excellent. I would have to think hard to find a negative on the season so far from what we see.” Clear Springs Packing LLC began its harvesting in mid-March. Craig Underhill, operations manager, said the freeze cut blueberry yields and affected the season’s peak. “Because of the freeze, we won’t see the monster peak this year that you’ve seen historically,” he said April 9. “There won’t be a real peak. It will be steady more than a peak. As long as the quality holds out, I could see us going into June. We are having a good season so far.” Prices from central and northern Florida in early and mid-April were lower than last season. On April 10, D’Amore and the U.S. Department of Agriculture reported $24-28 for flats of 12 6-ounce cups with lids of medium-large and flats of 12 4.4-ounce cups with lids of medium-large selling for $18.50-22. Last season in mid-April, growers and the USDA quoted $30-34.85 for flats of 12 6-ounce cups with lids of medium-large and flats of 12 4.4-ounce cups with lids of medium/large selling for $25-28.85. Before the freeze, Florida growers were expecting to harvest 22.5 million pounds of blueberries, up from last season’s 21.5 million pounds, D’Amore said. Post-freeze estimates are about 17 million to 18 million pounds. Georgia typically begins harvesting light volumes in mid- to late April.