Thanks to a number of factors, Florida is wrapping up its blueberry season with some disappointments.
“We are down about 1/3 of what we had last year,” says Allan Sanchez of Red, White and Blues Farm based in Williston, Fl., a company whose season is still somewhat going, given its more northern location in the state. “We haven’t had as much volume as we’ve had over previous years. Everybody in Florida will say they’re disappointed with the amount of fruit they had compared to seasons past.”
He notes that a few variables have affected the state’s blueberry deal this year. “It just hasn’t been as hot,” he says. “In the 70s is cool but sometimes you need 80-degree weather for the berries to turn blue and pop. They were saying last week that there would be more fruit this week and now this week they’re saying we’ll just wait until next week. We’ve been saying this for two to three weeks now and the fruit just hasn’t come on. At one point, you just have to say ‘Maybe we’re not going to get more fruit this year.’”
Domestic and international effects
Of course, other players—domestic and international—have significantly affected the amount of fruit available. “Usually around this time there’s quite a bit of Georgia fruit around and whether it’s weather cycle or just a colder year than normal down south here, it’s delayed production,” he says. “Georgia’s also not coming in as strong and late and we’re seeing that now.” There may also be concerns over pollination of the fruit in the state.
At the same time, when Florida blueberries began, it entered a somewhat dense marketplace. “The Chilean deal ran longer and they had a record-breaking year of fruit they shipped over,” says Sanchez. “There was also Mexico. They’re a player growing every year and getting bigger every year. So there was a saturation of blueberries in the marketplace.”
So while demand is good for Florida blueberries, that influx pushed down pricing somewhat. “In years past, when the deal started off, you’d get in the $30s-$40s and that was there this year for a lot of folks,” says Sanchez. “They had to start off in the mid-20s and that’s when fruit was tight. As it came off, it kind of stayed in the high teens to low $20s.”
Looking ahead Sanchez believes the blueberry deal will largely shift over from 6 oz. to pints fully. “The bigger players switch to pints once there’s a decent amount of production because that moves the needle for retailers,” he says. “The hope is that there’s enough fruit to meet the demand. I’m pretty sure there will be once production gets into Georgia, North Carolina, New Jersey, etc.”
Source: Fresh Plaza