domingo, mayo 13, 2007

Chile solía terminar en Abril, ahora sigue hasta Mayo

Interesante nota que muestra el aumento de la producción de arándanos en zonas como Florida. Los productores también revelan la preocupación por la extensión de la oferta de arándano chileno que antes llegaba hasta mayo y durante el 2007 se extendió hasta abril.

BARTOW - When Jerry D'Amore surveyed the sand and scrub brush on some 1,000 acres of reclaimed phosphate land in Homeland last year, it took him back to Saudi Arabia in 1974 - minus the scrub brush."I sat down on a ridge, and I could see the potential," said D'Amore, the vice president for agriculture at Clear Springs Land Co. LLC in Bartow.D'Amore called his wife on his cell phone and told her he wanted to take on the challenge of growing blueberries for Clear Springs, just as he had tackled the challenge of building greenhouses in the sand kingdom 32 years earlier, he said.Many others in Florida and the United States have taken up that challenge. Thanks to a raft of positive reports in print and broadcast media, the blueberry has become one of the hottest commodities growing in and outside Florida.For example, Clear Springs started with 50 acres of blueberries last year, and it added 100 this year, D'Amore said. It plans to add 300 acres next year, and by 2011, it plans to have all 1,000 acres planted in blueberries."For me, there's no doubt the market will support it," he said. "It's the most unique market window I know of.
My firm conviction is the Florida blueberry market will get only stronger for a good while.In recent years, that first harvest of blueberries has returned a farm price in the upper $30 range per flat, said Joe Keel, who has 37 acres of blueberries that he sells through Clear Springs. By the end of the season, prices fall to around $20 a flat.According to U.S. Department of Agriculture figures, blueberries shipped out of Orlando were selling mostly for $20 to $24 per 3.3-pound flat on Thursday. The comparable price was $32 to $34.50 on March 29.In past years, the first blueberry crop sold for more than $40 per flat, said William Braswell of Auburndale, who has 40 acres in Auburndale and Haines City.Those price levels have spurred a lot of interest in planting blueberries, including his partnership with Clear Springs to develop the 1,000 acres of blueberries in Polk County, Braswell said."I saw it as a ground-floor opportunity to get involved in a company with big plans," he said.The Clear Springs plan comes following an eight-year surge in blueberry acreage in Florida and the U.S.In Florida, commercial blueberry land more than doubled from 1,200 acres in 1999 to 2,600 acres last year, according to the most recent USDA statistics.
During that period, production increased from 1.45 million pounds valued at $7 million to 2.6 million pounds valued at $32.9 million.Across the U.S., commercial blueberry land grew from 39,330 acres in 1999 to 52,820 acres in 2006, a 34 percent increase, the USDA statistics show. But production exploded from 90.1 million pounds worth $156 million in 1999 to 275.5 million pounds - triple 1999 production - worth $497.7 million last year - nearly double in eight years.The top blueberry states last year were, in order, Michigan, Maine, New Jersey, Oregon and North Carolina, which accounted for half the U.S. production. Florida ranked ninth.Blueberries have benefited from news reports on the nutritional value of antioxidants, which many scientific studies show inhibit the development of cancers. Blueberries have one of the highest concentrations of antioxidants among all foods.
Last winter, most Florida blueberry farms didn't even get 100 chill hours, said Braswell and D'Amore.Another perennial problem is that Florida lies along the migratory path of the cedar waxwing, a songbird that loves blueberries. And it flies into Florida in April at the height of the blueberry season.Waxwing populations were particularly large this year, Braswell and Keel said. Many small growers cover their fields with nets to keep the birds out, but Keel hired a full-time person this year to shoo the birds away with firecrackers.Both the heat and the waxwing will probably depress the state's production by 20 percent this year, Braswell said.On the positive side, the Florida blueberry season will probably extend into June this year because of the freakish snowy weather earlier this month that damaged bushes extensively in North Carolina and Georgia, the sixth largest blueberry state, he said.
"The history of agriculture shows a boom-and-bust cycle because farmers tend to overplant when prices are high. The boom in planting has affected the Florida blueberry industry, but growers are still confident about the long-term outlook."I think the really, really high prices are gone," said Braswell, referring to the $40-per-flat price for the early harvests several years ago. "Next season, even a $30 price may be beyond the possible."But that still leaves a lot of room for profit because the break even price for the growers is around $10 per flat, he said.In a typical year, growers in Georgia and North Caroline get around $20 a flat when they begin harvesting in June, Braswell said.
Despite the Clear Springs plan, Braswell predicted the boom in new Florida planting during the past decade will moderate because of the cost of developing a new blueberry farm - about $20,000 a acre, he added."A lot of people are interested right now, but the cost of admittance is getting high," Braswell said.The biggest threat to Florida blueberries will come not in overplanting in this state or others, he said. It will come from South American imports, particularly from Chile.Florida growers already saw the impact of Chilean imports when the average price per flat fell to $4.70 in 2006 from $6.30 in 2005, Braswell said. Florida no longer has the fresh blueberry market in the U.S. to itself."Chile used to peter out by April. Now they go through May," he said.Still Braswell, D'Amore and Keel remained optimistic about Florida blueberries for at least the next five years."The supply hasn't caught up with the demand, so I don't think it (a bust) is going to happen anytime soon," Keel said. "We've had a good year."

Fuente The Ledger

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