US berry shippers unsure about Florida/Georgia blueberry season

by Comité de Arándanos

ripe blueberry cluster on a blueberry bush

After a somewhat frustrating Chilean imported blueberry season, berry shippers are waiting—and wondering–how the domestic blueberry season will shape up.

“We’re finishing up with Chilean blueberries and the late-season volume is substantially more than forecast,” says Zach Dehart with Fort Lauderdale, Fl.-based Fresh Results, LLC. He notes that the current oversupply is likely the result of berries originally earmarked for China and Europe being diverted to the U.S. after those markets faltered.

Early-season challenges
This is happening after a bit of a late start—three weeks at least—to the Chilean season in the late fall/early winter. “We all thought there would be much more fruit here for the end of November/December but the  fruit was delayed,” says Dehart. “Now we are seeing a very depressed six-ounce market. Had we been given the foresight to plan on this late volume, we would have put our retailers on aggressive ads versus spot market.”

The season isn’t quite done yet. Aside from this week, Dehart anticipates two more weeks of light arrivals.

Ready for change
On the demand side, Dehart believes consumers are ready for new product. “Right now 10-15 percent of the berries are arriving soft and with some shrivel. Some of the better proprietary varieties still have a bit of a crunch but most of the product is not firm,” he says. “Consumers are tired of Chile and want a new crop.”

However, the new crop is in a bit of a wait and see situation—while the Florida market can begin as early as mid-March, Dehart notes the real start tends to be around April 1st. “Florida did have a hailstorm Tuesday afternoon so I’m still waiting for a damage report,” he says. “We also have very heavy production in Georgia that has been affected by late frost for the second year in a row. Estimates range from 80 percent to total loss in many areas.”

Source: Fresh Plaza

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