Blueberry harvest has transitioned from the South America to North America - Chile
completed the fresh shipping season in early April at 97% of last year, significantly short of the preharvest forecasted 20% increase. Frozen pack is anticipated short of last year although reliable data is not available at this time. Frozen shipments to N.A. are expected to be significantly reduced from 2011’s harvest with increases to Asia.
Florida’s harvest began mid ‐ March following considerable freeze damage in February. This week’s Florida Blueberry Growers Association’s report forecasts the total harvest at 70% of last year, essentially 100% fresh. Georgia southern highbush variety harvest for fresh market began mid ‐ April; also experienced freeze damage and anticipated less than 2011.
Today blueberry bud development in all eastern growing districts, highbush and lowbush, are two or more weeks ahead of normal and at very high risk of cold temperature (freeze) damage. Temperatures this week have threatened and history would give caution for three to four weeks, until mid ‐ May.
Western growing districts are contrary to the east, with bud development much later than normal with some reporting a week later than 2011, a year considered two weeks later than normal.
2012 Frozen pack forecast – it is far too early to forecast although a 10 ‐ 15% increase over last year is a reasonable expectation on the basis of new acreage, and Michigan’s extremely short 2011 crop.
USDA Cold Storage Report – March 31, 2012
March Movement is the first in this crop cycle with an increase over the prior year, and a March record of 17.3mm pounds surpassing March 2008’s 16.5mm pounds. A very positive outcome for the blueberry market. Why? Lower imports from Argentina and Chile compared to prior year and first quarter frozen market activity has been strong indicating product utilization improvement. My forecasted low carry out has been reduced to 62mm pounds from last month’s 74mm, due to reduced Florida and early Georgia forecast, late California harvest season and the strong fresh prices. Last year June reported a 6mm “in” movement, a first. This is not expected in 2012.
Recent highbush blueberry price reports are widely scattered from $1.30 to $1.69 with many factors including product specification and location (freight an increasingly important element in fob pricing). There are a few reports of early commitments for the 2012 harvest. Interest in frozen blueberries remains high, and anticipation of softening prices from 2011 is rekindling interest dampened by 2011 prices. Lowbush wild blueberries supplies are tight, few sales, prices in around $2; and all growing areas are at high risk of cold temperature damage.