jueves, julio 23, 2009

Precios bajos en la cosecha americana

Según este cable de Capital Press los precios a los productores de arándanos norteamericanos se encuentran bajos en estas semanas. Las condiciones climáticas favorables están dando hasta ahora una buena cosecha en el Noroeste y los precios al productor se encuentran cerca del dólar por cada libra de arándanos.
The blueberry harvest is off to a bittersweet start for Northwest blueberry farmers.Favorable weather conditions have resulted in a beautiful crop, but early prices for the formerly profitable fruit are depressed."The market sure fell apart on the fresh a lot more than normal," said Roy Malensky, president of the Oregon Berry Packing Co. in Hillsboro, Ore.Early in the season, growers typically sell blueberries for the fresh market, which usually attracts a higher price than the processed market.Last year's seasonal low price for fresh blueberries was about $1.10 per pound, Malensky said. This year, farmers are already getting $1 per pound, or even less, he said."It's not a very good omen for the new crop," said Malensky.Processed prices to growers have not yet been established, he said.
Just two years ago, fresh blueberries were fetching about $1.80 per pound and processed market fruit sold for $1.35 per pound, according to Capital Press reports from 2007."I think it's softening because there's a lot of fruit available," said Dave Dunn, general manager of the Willamette Valley Fruit Co. near Salem.Currently, blueberries from Oregon are still competing with late-season fruit from California, he said.Soon, farmers in British Columbia will be harvesting their crop, and there are more blueberries expected to arrive from east of the Cascade Range in Washington and Oregon, Malensky said."There are a lot of areas that went in two to five years ago now coming in," he said.Strong prices in prior years compelled blueberry planting worldwide. Since 1995, global acreage has nearly tripled, to about 163,000 acres in 2008, according to figures from the U.S. Highbush Blueberry Council.That's roughly 12 percent higher than in 2007. In the Western U.S. and British Columbia, acreage increased from 31,000 acres to 35,000 acres between 2007 and 2008."There are still plantings that will mature every year," Dunn said.Dunn said he's concerned that prices for fresh blueberries have not significantly dropped at the retail level, which would help move more product through to consumers."It turns into a real greed situation," he said.On the processing end of the industry, the situation is not very optimistic either.At 87.5 million pounds, the amount of frozen blueberry products in cold storage is up 50 percent from this time last year, according to the USDA's National Agricultural Statistics Service.A large supply of frozen blueberries pushes down prices and creates the opportunity to sell more fruit, Dunn said. However, there's a danger that food manufacturers will buy too much this year, weakening their demand for next year's crop, he said.On the bright side, larger stocks of frozen blueberries could increase overall usage of blueberries in new food products, said Rod Cook of Ag-View Consulting, who represents Washington on the U.S. Highbush Blueberry Council.In previous years, some manufacturers have been scared off from using blueberries due to high prices and scarce supplies, he said."It's hard to attract big customers when you're sold out to the wall every year," Cook said.Doug Krahmer, farmer and chairman of the Oregon Blueberry Commission, also took an optimistic view of the situation, noting that the industry faced a similarly depressed market in 2001."I think it's a bump in the road," Krahmer said. "We've run into these things on a cyclical basis."Growers who began blueberry farming recently are most likely to be seriously affected by the downturn, since current prices won't generate a short-term return on the investment, he said.Krahmer said there are fewer new entrants to the industry, but some experienced growers are moving ahead with previously planned expansions."The old saying is if nobody else is planting, it means you should," he said, adding that the opposite is also often true.Current conditions may discourage new plantings, but it's unlikely that blueberry acreage will actually begin shrinking in response, crop consultant Tom Peerbolt said.Blueberries are not cheap to plant and take several years to reach maturity, he said. "The likelihood of people taking out fields is not high."Staff writer Fuente Capital Press Para mas info Mateusz mperkowski@capitalpress.com.

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