Despite a cold, rainy start to the season, marketers of Florida blueberries expect excellent quality and abundant supplies. And with a smooth transition from Chile to Florida, steady markets are predicted until the deal moves north to Georgia and the Carolinas in May.Dave’s Specialty Imports Inc., Miami, shipped its last Chilean product April 11, the same day it began moving berries grown in the Gainesville, Fla., region, said Dave Bowe, president.“It was wonderful,” Bowe said of the timing. “And the quality I’ve seen to date has been absolutely beautiful — very large and sweet blueberries.”
On April 15, the U.S. Department of Agriculture reported prices of $24-24.50 for flats of 12 4.4-ounce cups with lids, up from $22-24 last year at the same time.Watsonville, Calif.-based California Giant Inc. began shipping from Florida March 17, with volume shipments expected through the first or second week of May, said Anthony Gallino, vice president of sales.Sizing should begin to come down about the end of April, he said. Gallino agreed with Bowe that sizing was large early in the deal.As of April 15, Watsonville, Calif.-based Driscoll Strawberry Associates Inc.’s Florida blueberry crop was about 25% picked, with cold weather slowing shipments down by a day or two, said Richard Fiorelli, East Coast production manager.
Driscoll’s should see its heaviest Florida volumes near the end of April, with production ending sometime in May, depending on market conditions, Fiorelli predicts.Plant City, Fla.-area production had begun to peak by mid-April, with volume shipments expected to last into early May before tailing off, Bowe said.More acres of blueberries were planted in Florida this year, and production is expected to be up, Bowe said.Gainesville was expected to hit volume in the last week of April and peak through mid-May before harvest moves north out of Florida, he said.Cal Giant also had begun marketing some California-grown blueberries from the Santa Maria and Oxnard regions about April 1, Gallino said.“With the cost of freight these days, it makes it easier to have fruit on both coasts,” he said.
Harvest in Florida was delayed slightly because of temperatures that dipped into the 30s as late as April, Bowe said. On top of that, the state had more rain in early April than Bowe has ever seen. Still, quality was not expected to be affected, he said.Five inches of rain the week of April 7 on land farmed by Cal Giant’s blueberry growers softened some fruit, but did not seriously affect overall quality or volumes, Gallino said.
Fuente Andy Nelson