Oversupply cuts Florida blueberry season short

From Fresh Fruit Portal | 7 May 2024

Overview of blueberries from Florida in the U.S. market, complemented by charts from Agronometrics. Original published on May 7, 2024.

By Carla Espinoza Gutiérrez

The Florida blueberry industry recently wrapped its 2023-24 season, with the Sunshine State posting outstanding quality and volumes. However, a fruit oversupply forced growers to finalize the campaign slightly earlier than anticipated.

Ryan Atwood, owner of independent company H&A Farms, told FreshFruitPortal.com that they enjoyed “really big yields” because of the healthy amount of chill hours received during the winter. 

Chill hours are the number of 45°F and below winter temperatures hours needed for optimum productivity. If blueberry plants do not receive adequate chilling, bloom and leaf development can be late and erratic. 

“We’re a little later than typical because of the El Niño weather cycle. But it lent for good fruit quality because it was very cool,” Atwood said regarding the beginning of the season. “That allowed us to have high-quality fruit. It also made for a very plentiful crop.”

Cold and below-average rainfall also helped diminish the risk for fungal pathogens, Atwood, said, which is some of the main challenges faced by growers in the area.

H&A Farms ships fresh Florida and Georgia blueberries to destination markets such as Canada and Vietnam, with most supplies staying domestic.

Impact on prices

Despite a positive outlook on quality and abundant yields, an unexpected oversupply dampened an otherwise stellar season for Florida blueberry growers. As a result, “brokers, were out there with nowhere to take their fruit,” Atwood said.

Atwood explained that excess Mexican, Georgian, and Peruvian supplies set a complicated market scenario for Floridian blueberries.

“It was unfortunate because we didn’t get to pick all of our fruit. But pricing was decent on the front end. It held in there pretty much until, I would say, week 17 and it kind of crashed.” he added.

blueberry prices by hist

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

The executive qualified the ending campaign as a “fairly decent year minus the market,” and emphasized the importance of estimates as a way for growers to prepare for adverse market conditions.

“I think growers and packing houses and marketers need to do a better job of forecasting their crop. I think a lot of the problems we had this year was that they were not prepared for the volume of fruit that they got when they got it,” he explained.

H&A Farms is part of the Florida Blueberry Growers Association, an organization dedicated to providing high-quality fresh blueberries from late March to early May.

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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