New Jersey blueberry growers expect good quality

05/31/2013 11:31:00 AM
Andrew Nelson

Courtesy Sunny Valley InternationalSunny Valley International drip-irrigates its blueberry bushes in New Jersey. The grower-shipper expects to ship its berries beginning June 15-20 marketing manager Bob Von Rohr says.Growers expect New Jersey’s blueberries to be slightly late this year, but ample volumes should still be available for July Fourth promotions and quality should be excellent.

Glassboro, N.J.-based Sunny Valley International expects to begin shipping blueberries from New Jersey around June 15-20, a typical start and about 1 1/2 weeks later than last season, said Bob Von Rohr, marketing and customer relations manager.

Von Rohr said a good winter and good growing weather thus far this spring should help ensure good quality.

“We had plenty of chill hours and enough moisture,” he said. “We’re on course for a full crop. Everything looks good so far.”

After an extended period during which temperatures didn’t rise above the 60s during the day, by the second half of May they were consistently topping out in the 80s, said Tim Wetherbee, sales manager for Diamond Blueberry Inc., Hammonton, N.J.

Acreage is up slightly for Sunny Valley this year, Von Rohr said.

The company has 10 conventional grower-partners and one organic partner.

The company’s partners stick to dukes, the early blueberry variety, and the later blues and don’t dabble in any of the minor varieties, Von Rohr said.

Diamond also focuses on dukes and blues, with a few elliots added at the end of the deal, Wetherbee said.

The more typical mid-June start date bodes well for cashing in on key summer markets, Von Rohr said.

“It’s perfect timing for the Fourth.”

Wetherbee agreed and said he expects strong demand throughout the season, thanks in large part to efforts by the U.S. Highbush Blueberry Council and other groups to research and promote blueberries’ nutritional benefits.

The word is getting out.

“I read everything the council puts out, but there are still people who buy from me who tell me things about blueberries I didn’t know,” he said. “People are clamoring for blueberries.”

Von Rohr said Sunny Valley also looks forward to strong demand for Garden State blues this summer.

“There’s usually a nice window for us,” he said. “The Carolinas are the deal prior to us. Hopefully they’ll finish on time.”

California blueberry production continues to increase, but it’s not something Von Rohr worries about because of the distance separating the coasts — and the attendant high freight costs.

“We don’t see California as a major threat,” he said. “On the East Coast, we’re kind of like a solo act.”

Most of Sunny Valley’s blueberries stay on the coast, including as far south as Florida and as far north as Canada.

The company does ship to markets as far west as Chicago, St. Louis and Texas, Von Rohr said.

Sunny Valley expects to wrap up its Jersey deal around the first week of August, Von Rohr said.

Freshwave Fruit & Produce LLC, Vineland, N.J., expects to begin shipping about June 19, a week to 10 days later than usual but still in plenty of time to take advantage of July Fourth pull, president Skip Consalo said.

In late May, the company was booking ad promotions for the holiday, he said.

Excellent growing weather should yield high-quality, hardy fruit, with plenty of crunchy berries, Consalo said.

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