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California Giant Berry Farms, based in Watsonville, CA, is looking toward expanding its bush berry operations in the new year, including plans to hire a new general manager for its blueberry packing operations.

Last spring, the Watsonville, CA-based company launched a state-of-the-art cooling and packing facility in Aurora, OR, in time for the fresh blueberry harvest season. The 40,000-square-foot facility with forced-air tunnels resulted in improved post-harvest handling and overall fruit quality for the retailer and consumer.

Cal Giant is furthering that commitment in 2011 with a search for a general manager for its blueberry packing operations. This new staff addition will direct and coordinate company-wide blueberry packing operations and work with a variety of managers and supervisors on a daily basis to expand the company's position in the blueberry industry.

The new general manager will also work closely with the board of directors to develop any other opportunities in the west that would benefit California Giant, such as acquiring additional growers, relocating to another facility or adding other products to the existing facility to maximize overhead.

This continued expansion and increase in staffing further deepens the company’s long term roots in the blueberry industry.

The 2011 blueberry harvest season is well underway with multiple growing regions contributing to a year-round berry program.

The California Giant blueberry season started months ago in South America with high-quality product and promotable volume currently coming from Chile for the next few months. When the season shifts north to California and the Pacific Northwest in the spring, the company plans to have the new general manager in place to maximize its position in the marketplace.

Regarding strawberries, Cal Giant’s season is getting off to a slow start due to the extreme cold snap in Florida and significant rain in Southern California. However, Mexican production is ramping up and is proving to be valuable during the weather disruptions in the other districts. All three growing regions are expected to shift quickly as the weather warms and volume increases this month.

The current long-term forecast for both California and Florida growing regions shows clear conditions returning with warmer daytime and nighttime temperatures.

To round out the early berry season, Cal Giant is also harvesting fresh blackberries in Mexico with volume expected to increase over the next few weeks and remain strong through the spring until the season shifts to California.