Later B.C. blueberry harvest opens opportunities for exports to China

After two years of early starts to the season, British Columbia’s blueberry season will return to a more regular time for its 2017 harvest. 

“Usually we start around the first week of July so we’re right around the normal start for us this year,” says Chris Messent with Kelowna, B.C.-based Consolidated Fruit Packers. “The last two seasons were very early. Last year we started the second week of June which was very early.” Early harvest meant that B.C. was harvesting at the same time as four other growing regions—Carolina, Georgia, New Jersey and Oregon. “That meant the market was flooded in fruit in June and early July last year and it was a lot of fresh berries for the market to absorb. We saw some low prices and lower returns for the local growers,” he says. “So this year being on a normal timeline, the growing regions have better separation when they’re harvesting so it’ll be a bit of a smoother season this year on the fresh blueberries.” 

Volume until September? 
Anticipated volume is expected to run through to mid-August with steady production, if the weather allows, to last until mid-September. “The harvest is expected to start around July 8th with the early Dukes,” says Messent. “The Dukes look really nice with good fruit set and are progressing well.” That said, the mid-season Blue crop looks down with not a great fruit set. Draper and Elliot look good, so with the right weather we could see production into mid September with late picks of Elliot and storage fruit beyond that. The summer harvest will bring plenty of opportunity for promotion on blueberries as we see peak volumes come in from the fields late July and early August.” And with good planning of ads, says Messent, they should see better overall returns to the local growers, who have had a tough couple seasons.

Eye on China
A return to a normal harvest time also allows CFP to potentially increase its sales to Asia, China in particular. “Sales to Asia are increasing for BC every year. This year we anticipate shipping more to China than we did last year,” he says. “We didn’t do much as an industry because we were so early. China has its own domestic production and so they usually don’t come to us looking for fruit until mid-August. And last year by mid-August, we were almost wrapped up with our crop. This year because we’re later, it would be easy for us to double our numbers from last year to China.”

For more information:
Chris Messent
Consolidated Fruit Packers
Tel: (+1) 250-868-1400

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