It’s berry time: Strawberry, blueberry, bushberry outlook strong

From The Packer | 4 May 2022

Overview of berries in the U.S. market, complemented by charts from Agronometrics. Original published on May 2, 2022. 

Berries and summer are synonymous. And right on cue, the sweet, juicy little orbs are making their way across North America as temperatures warm and consumers head outdoors.

Strawberries, blueberries, raspberries and blackberries are being harvested throughout the U.S. with some berries coming from Mexico and Canada as well.

Strawberries
Production already is off to a strong start in the strawberry category, said Chris Christian, senior vice president at the Watsonville-based California Strawberry Commission.

“We expect an earlier peak than last year,” she said. And for several reasons.

There’s an increase in acreage that produces from April through summer, weather has been favorable, and consumer demand continues to be strong.

Excellent quality and volume are expected from Mother’s Day, May 8, through the Fourth of July, she said.

“There is an opportunity to maximize 2-pound clamshells,” she added. “Strawberries are ripe and plentiful for National Strawberry Month in May.”

Reported fall-planted acres that reach peak production in late spring through summer, increased 6.4% over 2021. Total California strawberry acreage reported for 2022 is 38,026.

In Florida, 12,196 acres were planted, an increase from 12,031 in 2020-21.

strawberry volumes by or 17

Source: USDA Market News via Agronometrics.
(Agronometrics users can view this chart with live updates here)

Blueberries
On the blueberry scene, the Florida harvest will continue through the start of summer, said Kasey Cronquist, president of the Folsom, Calif.-based U.S. Highbush Blueberry Council and the North American Blueberry Council.

Other major regions harvesting this summer include Georgia, California, North Carolina, New Jersey, Washington, Oregon, Michigan and Canada/British Columbia.

Small volumes will be coming from Mexico.

The projection for the total U.S. highbush blueberry market in 2022-23, which includes domestic and imported blueberries, is estimated at 1.5 billion pounds, Cronquist said. That’s up 13.2% over the 2021-22 season. Including the lowbush projections, the total volume projected is more than 1.8 billion pounds in 2022, compared to 1.6 billion pounds in 2021.

“We’re expecting an excellent highbush crop with fresh blueberries representing 71% of the projected volume with the balance going to frozen, dried and other forms of processed blueberries,” he said.

Cronquist said the industry has been experiencing significant growth.

“Providing consumers with year-round availability has served to secure premium shelf space at retail, while marketing and promotions have been able to deliver top-of-mind awareness of all of the health benefits associated with this amazing fruit,” he said.

blueberry volumes by ori 16

Source: USDA Market News via Agronometrics.
(Agronometrics users can view this chart with live updates here)

Bushberries
Turning to raspberries and blackberries, Plant City, Fla.-based Wish Farms has expanded its California conventional and organic raspberry acreage, said Amber Maloney, director of marketing.

“It will be ramping up into May, with peak volume through July and August,” she said. “We also expanded our (conventional and organic) blackberry acreage, which will be ramping up into May, with peak volume through mid-July to mid-September.”

Watsonville-based Well-Pict Inc. was picking raspberries in late April in the Watsonville/Salinas area, said Jim Grabowski, director of marketing.

“Quality looks good,” he said, and the size of the berries has increased significantly over the years.
“Now they jump out at you in the package,” he said.

Although the 6-ounce size remains the standard raspberry package, more stores now offer a 12-ounce option, and some club stores even sell an 18-ounce size, he said.

Traverse City, Mich.-based North Bay Produce, a globally owned grower cooperative, now is importing blackberries from Mexico and expects to launch a new crop of good-quality berries from Georgia by mid-May, said Ryan Lockman, vice president of sales and procurement. That will be followed by a program from North Carolina.

The company also grows raspberries in Mexico, North Carolina and California with developmental trials now in several other regions, added Brian Klumpp, director of marketing and strategic development.

North Bay offers raspberries year-round.

Although Oregon grows 90% of the processed blackberries in the U.S., the state grows a substantial amount of fresh-market raspberries and blackberries for local farmer’s markets and local retailers, said Darcy Kochis, administrator and marketing director for the Portland-based Oregon Raspberry and Blackberry Commission.

“There has been interest in growing that fresh market business in Oregon,” she said.

Washington growers expect a much better crop and decent prices for their processed raspberries this year following a significant heatwave last year, said Henry Bierlink, executive director of the Lynden-based Washington Red Raspberry Commission.

He anticipated “a recovery crop from what we had last year.”

He also expected a strong fresh market raspberry crop from Mexico.

The News in Charts is a collection of stories from the industry complemented by charts from Agronometrics to help better tell their story.

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