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Light blackberry crop leads to mixed fortunes in Pacific northwest
It's been a challenging year for berry growers in the Pacific northwest, with weather conditions in spring setting up a poor year. For blackberry growers, harvest time is about to close and it's been a light crop overall. Jeff Peterson, of Columbia Fruit, said that yield is down due, in part, to the cold winter followed by a cool spring.
"Our blackberry season is about to finish. We only have the Evergreen variety left but that will be finished soon. There was a lot of water damage coming into the season and due to the colder than normal winter temperatures followed by the cool spring, the bees were not able to work on them. So it's been a light crop this season."
Mixed fortunes among growers
Some reports have pointed to a decline of around 30% in this season's crop. But the situation for some farmers is not as gloomy as for others. "Some farmers are okay, at least the ones that had a crop," said Peterson. "You either had a crop or you didn't. Unfortunately for the blueberry farmers, they had it bad too because that crop is down around half this year."
In terms of the market, producers are set to expect strong demand this year. Peterson continued, "The market is yet to be established so we haven't got any price estimates as yet. But we expect demand to be strong as it usually is. Once the blackberries are on the market, everyone wants to get their hands on some."
Smoke has little impact on crop
Much of the northwest has been under wildfire conditions in the last few weeks, including the pristine Columbia River Gorge. However, according to Peterson, the smoke from these fires has not had a negative impact on crops.
He said, "Most of the region is under smoke from all the wildfires. Some of the growers have even had ash falling on their fields. But this hasn't affected the fruit in any negative way. All of it gets washed during the processing so no smoke or ash or any other residues remain. If anything, the smoke has helped to shield the fruit from direct sunlight and prevent sunburn."
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