Late California blueberry season to cause overlapMay 28, 2019
Blueberry growers in California are expecting the season to run late this year, after a delayed start. Excess rains during spring pushed back the season and picking didn’t begin until the first week of May. As a result, the blueberry season is almost certainly going to run late and subsequently overlap with the start of the Oregon season.
“Our season started about two weeks late,” said Paul Smit of California Fruit Company. “The season is definitely going to extend and we now anticipate it to finish around the July 4 weekend. Oregon is due to start in mid June so there is going to be a big overlap. Georgia is also competing right now which is normal for this time of year.”
The storms and persistent rains over the past week and a half have also impacted California’s blueberry growers, but Smit noted that it has only had a minimal effect. “The rains and storms have offset us by about 20 percent on some of the earlier varieties,” he said. “But we should be through those within the week.”
Mexican blueberries keeping prices soft
The market is soft right now as more regions come online. There is also some Mexican fruit still around although they are expected to finish up for the season shortly. According to Smit however, the presence of Mexican blueberries in the market is keeping a lid on prices due to diminishing quality from end of season fruit.
“The market is soft largely because of the Mexican fruit,” he explained. “They have had rains there and are also winding down for the season so quality has been patchy. But as long as they are quoting low prices, some of the buyers use that as leverage to lower the prices they are willing to pay. Supplies are somewhat tight so normally the market would also be tighter, but the perception of the competition is keeping it soft.”
Smit added though that certain buyers are also willing to pay for the quality of the Californian fruit. “The more discerning buyers are willing to pay our prices because they know California has the quality,” he said. “The varieties we grow tend to be more appealing to consumers than some of the other common varieties found on the market.”
California blueberries found all over the US
An interesting function of the logistics of some of the buyers and distributors means that blueberries from California can be found all over the country. This is despite regions like Georgia producing a large amount of fruit as well.
“We ship all over the US,” Smit shared. “California has quite a considerable amount of production and buyers such as Walmart send California-grown blueberries all over the US with their distribution network. Because they have their own trucks, they utilize them to make sure they’re full both ways. For example, they might send a load of produce from the East Coast to California and then load California produce to send back. Overall, we have the quality and volume to sustain consistent supplies for all of our customers.”