Though supplies of organic blueberries from the Pacific Northwest will be declining throughout August, shipments from Peru are on the rise, with promotional opportunities anticipated in September and October, according to organic fruit leaders.
Stephen Paul, blueberry category manager for Homegrown Organic Farms in Porterville, CA, articulated the challenging situation that the organic blueberry industry has been facing for the past couple of months with its Northwest crop. “There is no other way to put it but that we are in a challenging cycle when it comes to climate,” he said this week.
Stephen Paul, Blueberry Category Manager, Homegrown Organic Farms
Weather in March and April was wet and cool, with the cold weather continuing well into June, according to Paul. Those weather conditions affected the bloom and crop set, followed by July heat waves that impacted quality.
“There is no other way to put it but that we are in a challenging cycle when it comes to climate.” - Stephen Paul
Noting that the summer of 2021 also brought unprecedented extreme heat to the Northwest, Paul said the weather conditions gave Homegrown’s field staff an opportunity to learn how to deal with those conditions.
“Our field management team and our harvest management people have done an excellent job of knowing what to send to the fresh market and which berries need to be diverted to the freezer,” he said. “But it’s been challenging. Every day is different. We are doing what we can to satisfy the fresh market.”
Homegrown Organic Farms organic blueberries
Demand, Paul said, has outstripped supply for organic blueberries for the past couple of months, but that will soon change. “September is the month of transition,” he said. “As Peru gets started, there is a shift in demand.”
“Our field management team and our harvest management people have done an excellent job of knowing what to send to the fresh market and which berries need to be diverted to the freezer.” - Stephen Paul
While Homegrown will continue to source from the Northwest until as late as October 1, Paul said Peru’s increasing presence in the market will make a difference. It has been estimated that 90 percent of the country’s blueberries are exported from August through December, with the peak coming in September and October.
Homegrown Organic Farms organic blueberries
Overall, Paul noted that the market price has been higher on organic blueberries because of supply issues as well as inflationary pressures. Increased supply from Peru should result in promotional opportunities for retailers moving forward.
Bo Slack, district manager at California Giant Berry Farms in Watsonville, CA, said his company’s organic berry supplies are also moving toward a transition period. “At the moment, we are supplying organic blueberries from Oregon and Eastern Washington,” he said. “Organic blueberries from Peru are forecasted to begin mid-October and continue through the year end. Chile will complement this, with harvests beginning late November through the end of [the] year.”
Bo Slack, District Manager, California Giant Berry Farms
Of current supplies, Slack said, “Organic blueberry production in the Pacific Northwest will continue a quality supply through August. Volume is decreasing as we approach Labor Day weekend.”
“Organic blueberries from Peru are forecasted to begin mid-October and continue through the year end. Chile will complement this, with harvests beginning late November through the end of [the] year.” - Bo Slack
Blueberries have been on a rising growth curve for several years, and Slack indicated the trajectory will continue in that same direction, trading on a number of positive attributes that blueberries have.
California Giant Berry Farms blueberries
“Volumes are up as our California Giant organic blueberry growers have seen steady growth with increased yield and berry quality this season,” he said. “Demand for blueberries is strong. Blueberries are favored for their flavor, versatility, and health benefits. Consumers find that they make the perfect fresh snack or ingredient item to add to recipes. In addition to this, culinary applications of blueberries are also becoming increasingly popular.”
August looks to be the month to promote conventional and organic blueberries, said Brian Bocock, vice president of product management for Naturipe. “For the last few weeks, we have seen historically low domestic production numbers. August will be full of opportunities to promote conventional and organic blueberries as the North American crop will continue with decent volume and Peru starts arriving with increased volumes.”
Brian Bocock, Vice President of Product Management, Naturipe
North American production will peak throughout the first 10 days of August, Bocock said, and then stay steady until the end of the month. “Peru will pick up any decreased volumes from North America August 10th onward,” he said.
“For the last few weeks, we have seen historically low domestic production numbers. August will be full of opportunities to promote conventional and organic blueberries as the North American crop will continue with decent volume and Peru starts arriving with increased volumes.” - Brian Bocock
It has been a unique year for blueberry production, Bocock said, with the most challenging spring weather patterns in years, including several freezes impacting blueberry crops in the Southeast. California also saw freezes as well as the rising and falling of temperatures during spring that affected both blueberries and strawberries.
“This weather, coupled with poor pollination weather, has caused the average blueberry size to be smaller than in prior years,” he said.