VINELAND, NJ — The market was seeing good movement of blueberries from Georgia and North Carolina at the end of May with the harvest of New Jersey blues looking to begin around the middle of June, according to Skip Consalo, president of The Fresh Wave.
That puts the timing of blueberries from all areas in the South and East more or less back to normal after last year, which saw the earliest harvest dates for blueberries (and many other items) earlier than in several decades.
Barring unforeseen weather problems, New Jersey blueberries should start “trickling in” around June 13 this year, “with volume starting around June 17,” Consalo told The Produce News, May 28, from the company’s headquarters here in southern New Jersey.
While Consalo said that it was too early to predict berry sizing for this year’s crop, he said that “the bloom looks good” and he expected excellent quality for the very popular item.
At the end of May, “movement was good” for blueberries from Georgia and North Carolina,” he said. “There’s a little bit of play due to the abundance of fruit in the market. Basically, pricing is moderate.” And pricing for Jersey blues, when they begin, “could be affected by the abundance of fruit,” he added.
The Fresh Wave has a comprehensive program in place to make sure that it has blueberries on hand to supply its customers virtually all year long. It offers Chilean blueberries generally during January, February and March, moving to Georgia from around April 20 to the end of May. North Carolina usually has berries from around May 18 to mid-June. New Jersey is producing generally from mid-June to late August, with Michigan and British Columbia shipping from mid-August to mid-September. Argentina completes the cycle from around October into mid-December.
Needless to say, blueberries are a key item for The Fresh Wave. They represent fully “half of our entire business, and Jersey blues “are 50 percent of our total blueberry deal,” said Consalo. “They’re a pretty significant amount of our business. They are absolutely paramount to us.”
The company already was starting to hear from retailers at the end of May, asking about the upcoming Jersey blueberry deal as they started to plan their promotions to supply consumers with the popular item this summer. And at the end of May, it was looking like they would not be disappointed.
“Several of our retailers are looking to promote exclusively Jersey blueberries,” Consalo said. “We’re fairly sure we’ll be on schedule.” As to volume, “There will be an abundance of fruit. Volume is looking to increase off last year’s numbers,” which were down in the Garden State due to some weather events during the harvest.
Labor could be a variable this coming season, Consalo noted, but generally speaking, retailers and consumers should be able to enjoy high-quality New Jersey blueberries at reasonable prices. As he put it, “There should be a lot of opportunities for retail promotions of Jersey blueberries this year.”