Blueberries take off after slow start

Blueberries take off after slow start

The early blueberry crops out of Georgia and North Carolina this spring were somewhat disappointing, but supplies were picking up as the harvest moved westward, said Luciano Fiszman, blueberry category manager for Los Angeles-based Gourmet Trading Co.

“The industry was expecting more volume this time in the season, and we prepared to move it,” Fiszman said June 5.

“However, there is not enough fruit around, and we are managing our way through it,” he said, adding that crops of the legacy blueberry variety in Georgia and especially in North Carolina were “short.”

“It looks like a pollination issue, but in any case, all of (a) sudden, bushes had no more fruit to pick,” he said.

The rabbiteyes in Georgia were not producing up to expectations either.

He said the crop in late May and early June for Georgia and North Carolina was down to 50% of what was forecast.

“Nobody saw it coming,” Fiszman said. “It is shocking for growers and marketers alike.”

However, New Jersey was expected to kick in by the middle of June, and that should provide some relief for retailers, he said.

“Quality has been very good, though, and that has helped to sustain demand,” Fiszman said.

On the West Coast, the impact of the rain during the winter and spring varied from ranch to ranch, he said.

Despite cool temperatures in California this season and a two-week delay of the start of the blueberry crop compared to last year, Tom Richardson, senior vice president of global development for Los Angeles-based Giumarra Cos., said he expected “a good crop with promotable volumes” this summer.

Gourmet Trading Co. will transition to Oregon later in June and then move to British Columbia, where Fiszman also expected a good crop.

“Weather in the Pacific Northwest has been good lately and hopefully stays the same,” he said.

“Get ready for Oregon,” said Steven Paul, category director for blueberries and stone fruit for Porterville, Calif.-based Homegrown Organic Farms.

Blueberries will be coming on “fast and furious by the third week of June, and then there will be no looking back,” he said.

“The crop looks really nice,” he said. “It looks big.”

The California crop likely will wind down after mid-June, when Oregon gets started, he said.

He predicted “great Fourth of July opportunities out of Oregon.”

Rainier Fruit Co., Selah, Wash., will have organic blueberries through September, said Andy Tudor, vic president of business development.

“We’re anxious to get started,” he said in early June. “Our ranch mangers that run the program do a fantastic job.”

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