Florida blueberry crop gets off to earlier start

04/10/2012 12:47:00 PM
Doug Ohlemeier

(UPDATED COVERAGE, April 12) BARTOW, Fla. — Buyers should expect the Florida blueberry season to run longer than normal.

Doug OhlemeierWorkers grade blueberries in mid-April at Clear Springs Packing LLC, Bartow, Fla. Grower-shippers expect Florida harvesting to run into June, longer than the deals’ normal late May finish. They say Florida should keep shipping as Georgia’s freeze-stunted crop ships lighter than normal early volume. 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.



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John    
florida  |  April, 11, 2012 at 10:23 AM

Too bad Publix is only selling blueberries from mexico, even though Florida is currently harvesting our own. Shame on you, publix.

Marilee    
Palm Beach Gardens  |  April, 16, 2012 at 09:57 AM

I just bought a box of Florida grown blueberries at my local Publix. They're also available at the nearby Costco. There were also some blues from Chile, but I always prefer American grown produce.

LMR    
Florida  |  April, 15, 2012 at 12:27 PM

Looking forward to the u-pick fields to open up!

sleepless    
pasco  |  April, 20, 2012 at 07:40 AM

too bad all the neighbors near the u=pick moron farmers have to get sleep deprived and rattled from all the explosions over two months. Blueberry farmers are the most inconsiderate neighbors ever, just don't care thet they are destroying property values and the lives of residents. Too many hottor stories to list, enjoy your you-pick blueberries while we all endure 12 hours of non stop gunfire and cannons to scare birsd for 2 months. idiots.

bbsleepless    
pasco  |  April, 20, 2012 at 07:43 AM

ban blueberry farming near long time residents, cannons and gunfite, fireworks and other bird scare have destroyed our lives and property value. zero accoutability from inconsideraqte morons. typical.

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