Despite some reports that suggested the Pacific Northwest blueberry crop had been affected by recent storms in the region, growers have said this is not the case. Instead, growers in Oregon are currently looking at a good year, and expect yields to be very close to the long term average. This is great news for a region that suffered last year and lost a significant proportion of fruit.
“It looks to be an extremely good blueberry season this year,” said Trevor Abell of Oregon Berry Packing in Hillsboro. “Pollination is just finishing up and the weather has in fact been very good. It’s still early to say for certain, but it looks to be a better crop than last year when the region was down by as much as 50 percent on early varieties.”
“Here in Hillsboro, we are further north than the Willamette Valley and therefore typically start our season a week after them,” he continued. “Harvest in the Valley is expected to start on June 15, with Hillsboro to start on June 20.”
New packing and storage facility
In a sign the Northwest blueberry deal is moving from strength to strength, Oregon Berry Packing announced that their new 55,000 square foot packing and storage facility will be up and running in time for this season. The new facility will be used for fresh market packing, and is an ideal size for the scope of the company’s operations.
“We are just putting the finishing touches on the new fresh packing and storage facility that we have built,” Abell shared. “It will be operational this season and we’re excited to be using all new equipment and upgraded technology. This will benefit both our packing house team as well as the quality of the berries. Our previous facility was a little bit undersized for what we were doing.”
“Blueberries are doing extremely well as a category, enjoying steady growth each year,” he added. “We are also excited to be launching a couple of new varieties this season. We did grow them last season, but not in any great quantity, so this year will be the first with good volume.”
Exports growing but also a challenge
Another reason that Oregon Berry Packing have expanded their operations is to improve their export potential. Blueberries are in good demand around the world and the company wants to keep in step with that demand. “By opening the new facility, we position ourselves better to take advantage of an excellent export market,” Abell explained. “We want to build on the growth that is happening, which by extension, also builds growth on the domestic level. Not all berries can be exported due to stringent quality requirements, and so those berries can be absorbed into the domestic market.”
It’s not all smooth sailing when it comes to exports though. Abell noted that many potential export customers also have their own policies in play when it comes to fresh produce. “It’s certainly a challenge for us as many countries are encouraging their own domestic production,” he noted. “Therefore, if domestic production is sufficient to meet local demand, there is no room for exports. This is where countries like Chile have an advantage, because their growing season coincides with the Northern Hemisphere off season and they are able to supply major markets in East Asia during those months.”
Source: Fresh Plaza