Drought conditions in California shouldn’t hurt berry harvest

05/09/2014 11:58:00 AM
Melissa Shipman

Drought conditions in California shouldn’t hurt berry harvest for this year, grower-shippers said.

“Everything looks good as of right now. The drought will affect things eventually, but not this year,” said Gregory Atkinson, West Coast manager and domestic grower relations for Giumarra International Berry, Los Angeles.

Chloe Varennes, marketing manager for Gourmet Trading Co., Redondo Beach, Calif., said she doesn’t expect drought concerns to cause major problems for the berry deal.

“The drought conditions should not affect the crop this season. Our blueberry farm in Delano, Calif., actually experienced great weather this year, which will be causing the season to begin earlier than normal,” Varennes said.

Atkinson agreed the season is running a little earlier than normal.

“We should have fruit about 10 days earlier this year unless something else happens,” he said.

For blueberries, the peak of the season should hit around Memorial Day.

“They will be in peak supply the week of Memorial Day or the week after,” Atkinson said.

Blackberries should start after that and be promotable for the Fourth of July.

Matt Curry, president of Brooks, Ore.-based Curry & Co., said the current season has been relatively tight on product compared to previous years.

“As we move through April, import berries are winding down, and U.S. growing regions have been slow to start, creating strong demand for all berries across North America,” Curry said.

He cited weather conditions in California and other parts of the U.S. as one reason for the delayed start to the season, but said quality should be good.

“Flavor has been great though, and North American consumers expect great tasting berries at their favorite produce departments,” Curry said.

Eastern berries tardy

The East Coast isn’t running ahead of schedule this year, according to Eric Crawford, president of Fresh Results LLC, Sunrise, Fla., He said the blueberry deal from Florida is off to a late start.

“The production cycle in Florida is two or three weeks later than what was originally projected,” he said.

The delay has caused some issues with covering retail ads.

“There’s a real, legitimate reason why most ads have been cut. Most people are just very short of product right now because of the delayed production cycle,” Crawford said.

Crawford also expects the later start to continue as the season transitions into supply from Georgia.

“I think the situation in Georgia will be similar to what we are encountering in Florida, with the demand exceeding the supply,” Crawford said.

Despite these delays, Crawford said he expected harvest in Georgia to begin around May 5, with volume ramping up just before Memorial Day.

Crawford said he doesn’t believe holiday promotions will be an issue.

“I see no reason to not push forward with promotions for Memorial Day, but we’ll have to continue to watch the production curve as it progresses,” he said.

Volume should also be strong for Independence Day, Crawford said.

“We expect to have significant volumes by that time,” he said.

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