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US (GA): Blueberry growers manage cold weather, anticipate record crop
With cold weather and hail affecting many Georgia blueberry growers in the last month, what was initially though to be an early start to the season has been pushed back. But despite the cold, growers are expecting an on-time start to this year's season, which they expect will bring another large crop.
“A month ago, we though we'd be earlier than usual,” said Joe Cornelius, chairman of the Georgia Blueberry Commission. “But the last four weeks have been really cold, so that's slowed down crop development.” Harvesting is now expected to start in late April or early May, which is the time of year that sizable volumes usually come in. Cornelius estimated that growers have used frost protection measures for about 20 nights this year, though some areas were hit with hail damage from a storm last week. Despite that, however, it's expected that this year's crop will follow a decade-long trend of increasing volume for the state.
“We're looking at a record crop of about 70 million to 75 million pounds,” said Cornelius. The Commission noted that blueberry production for the state has doubled in the last decade with yearly increases of as much as 15 percent. That robust growth can be attributed to a greater public awareness of blueberries' health benefits which has fueled consumer demand. That demand will make for good prices.
“15 years ago, we had a price spike because there was a void, but now supply is meeting demand,” noted Cornelius. “Prices for fresh berries should be close to what they were last year, so we should get good returns.”
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