Wish Farms will have wrapped up its early blackberry program and will be sourcing blackberries solely from North Carolina and California after the Fourth of July, says Jose Saca, director of cane berries. Saca says he expects to see good-quality blackberries this summer. ( Courtesy Wish Farms )

Consumers looking for berries to enhance their picnics or barbecues this summer won’t be disappointed.

Grower-shippers say plenty of good-quality fruit should be available, and prices should be reasonable.

Strawberries
 
The strawberry harvest in Watsonville, Calif., got underway in late May, two or three weeks later than usual, said Jim Grabowski, merchandising manager for Watsonville-based Well-Pict Inc.

Picking should continue in that region until late October or until fall rains arrive, he said.

“Quality is looking very good right now,” he said in early June, with good sizing and good color.

Salinas, Calif.-based Naturipe Berry Growers should have peak volume through June and into early July, said Craig Moriyama, director of berry operations.

Santa Maria was winding down in late May and picking was gathering steam in the Salinas/Watsonville area, he said.

Rain during mid- and late May caused some “short-term interruptions,” he said, but picking was back on track by June, and volume should be similar to last year, even though acreage is down a bit this year.

“The yields are much higher on the varieties we have now,” Moriyama said.

Blueberries

The early blueberry deal in Georgia and especially North Carolina got off to a rough start, said Luciano Fiszman, blueberry category manager for Los Angeles-based Gourmet Trading Co.

“I would say the crop in late May and early June for Georgia and North Carolina is down to 50% of what it was forecasted,” he said June 5.

But New Jersey’s volume was expected to kick in by the middle of June, which should give some relief to retailers.

“Demand is good, and prices are good,” Fiszman said. “(There’s) just a lack of supply in the Southeast these last couple of weeks.”

California blueberry growers survived their second year of “difficult weather,” he said.

“Things are looking good now,” he said in early June.

Bush berries

Turning to blackberries, Plant City, Fla.-based Wish Farms was scheduled to start picking in North Carolina in early June, and Georgia should be wrapping up by the Fourth of July, said Jose Saca, director of cane berries.

At that time, the company’s blackberries will be coming solely from North Carolina and California.

Peak volume is expected around the second to third week of June.
  
On the raspberry scene, Watsonville-based Well-Pict Inc. has small raspberry deals out of Mexico and Oxnard, Calif., but most of the company’s raspberries are grown in Watsonville, Grabowski said.

That program started in early May and will continue until October or November.

Since most of Well-Pict’s raspberries are grown under hoops, they are not as affected by rain as they are by cold weather, he said.

Volume from Well-Pict should be similar to last year.
 
Raspberry prices have been dropping over the years, he said.

“The industry has planted a lot more raspberries, so there are a lot more available.”

Larger raspberries also have become the industry standard, he added.

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