With the Pacific Northwest organic blueberry crop heading for the finish line and Peru not yet ready to start, it appears that there will be a gap in supplies following Labor Day.
“In Oregon we had to contend with a lot of heat,” said Stephen Paul, category manager for Homegrown Organic Farms in Porterville, California, on Tuesday, August 22. “If there is no more adverse weather [in the Pacific Northwest], we should be able to last another two weeks or so. But Peru is very late, so there is definitely going to be a supply gap.”
Stephen Paul, Category Manager, Homegrown Organic Farms
For almost a week, temperatures were near or above the 100-degree mark in Oregon. “We are still assessing the heat damage and are not sure how the later varieties are going to perform,” he said.
He added that Peru is dealing with its own weather issues caused by the El Niño effect, which is disrupting normal weather patterns throughout the Southern Hemisphere. Peru is being especially hard hit as winter temperatures have hovered around the 70-degree mark, prompting meteorologists to opine that the country is not going to get a winter this year.
“If there is no more adverse weather [in the Pacific Northwest], we should be able to last another two weeks or so. But Peru is very late, so there is definitely going to be a supply gap.” - Stephen Paul
Paul noted that the blueberry market has been on an upward trend for the past 10 days, “and it is still climbing.”
He does not expect there to be price relief until Peru starts shipping good volumes in mid-September or later. The Specialty Crop Market News Division of the USDA reported that on Tuesday, organic blueberry volume from the Pacific Northwest was light, with prices ranging mostly from $30-$34 for a flat of eight 18-ounce clamshells.
Markus Duran, director of bushberry supply at California Giant Berry Farms in Watsonville, California, made the same observations about the late summer organic blueberry situation. “Organic blueberry supply is winding down in Oregon, with organic volumes coming from Peru following the end of the Oregon season around week 36,” he said. “Organic volumes from Chile aren’t anticipated until nearing the end of 2023.”
Markus Duran, Director of Bushberry Supply, California Giant Berry Farms
Duran noted on August 22 that “Oregon was hit by an extreme 3-4 day heat wave of temperatures exceeding 100 [degrees Fahrenheit] about a week ago. For the most part, quality has remained okay. We will finish the Oregon harvest season in the next two to three weeks.”
“Organic blueberry supply is winding down in Oregon, with organic volumes coming from Peru following the end of the Oregon season around week 36. Organic volumes from Chile aren’t anticipated until nearing the end of 2023.” - Markus Duran
A produce buyer who asked for the opportunity to discuss the organic blueberry situation without being identified agreed that supplies are dwindling from the Northwest, and there could be limited supplies in early September. He noted that there are some smaller blueberry growers that will have some supplies from California’s Central Coast over the next few weeks, but their volume will be limited.
He observed that organic producers from South America tend to be relatively quiet about the sizing and timing of their production. “We have not heard anything yet from Peru or Chile,” he said. “The market is tightening up with less supply, and there has been no ad pricing. It does seem like there could be a gap. But this is pretty typical, end-of-season stuff. It’s nothing out of the ordinary.”