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Michigan blueberry season feeling effects from early rain
After a slow start, the Michigan blueberry season has recovered and is now back on track thanks to some warm days at the very start of the season. Rainfall had caused the delay and as a result, the yield for the fresh crop is considerably lower this year. One of the biggest issues for growers is that the most valuable Michigan-grown variety seems to have been affected the most.
"The season began on time with our early varieties at the start of July but things fell behind shortly after that," said Steve Spiech of Spiech Farms. "We have caught up now though thanks to a run of days that had very good heat units which brought the fruit on more rapidly. There is less fresh volume this year, with the Elliott variety - the Michigan money crop - down by half. Processing berries are seeing a slight rise in volume compared with the long term average."
"We are currently onto the second pick of the Blue crop before shortly getting into the Elliotts until the end of August, beginning of September," he continued. "The Jersey crop is also picked at the start of August."
Market steadily improving, for now
At the start of the season, prices were low as volume from several regions was entering the market. And due to the large BC crop, prices are lower than they were last year at this time. Still, prices have been steadily climbing and are set to continue through to September when offshore supply will once again begin to dictate prices.
"The market is systematically down by 10 to 12 percent on this time last year," Spiech observed. "The BC crop came in hard and there was also a lot of competition from the New Jersey blueberry crop. That crop has eased off now and prices are improving. During August, the market typically picks up but we are concerned with what will happen when the Peru crop begins in September. The volume coming from South America will determine what impact it will have on prices for the September domestic storage supply."
Retailers going for larger packs
While clamshells are here to stay, the sizing preferred by retailers does appear to fluctuate. This year, growers have noted an increase in demand for larger sized packs.
"Nothing much has changed in terms of packaging types," Spiech shared. "However, one thing we have noticed this year is that almost every retailer is going for larger packs. The amount of requests for the pint size containers has been reduced in favor of 18oz and 2lb packs."
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