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Conditions favorable for Northwest crop of blues

Blueberry production continues to be a growth industry in the Pacific Northwest. “Freshly harvested Oregon blueberries, one of the joys of summer, are on the way, and this year’s crop is looking bigger and better than ever,” said the Oregon Blueberry Commission on its website. “In fact, Oregon growers are expected to harvest more than 70 million pounds of blueberries this year, another production record.”

According to the Washington Blueberry Commission, eastern Washington has approximately 4,300 acres planted to blueberries, and the 2013 season is anticipated to be a good one. Benton, Franklin, Grant, Walla Walla and Yakima counties are among the leading production areas.

Crop-OverviewInput from blueberry growers in the Pacific Northwest reveals that the 2013 crop is expected to be one of good volume and high quality. Weather conditions have been termed ideal, and product movement is already underway. (Photo courtesy of California Giant Berry Farms)The region’s growers are enthusiastic about the year’s production prospects. Suzanne Wolter, director of marketing for Rainier Fruit Co. in Yakima, WA, said the company will see a surge in its volume in 2013. She said weather conditions have been ideal for blueberry production, and maturing acreage will account for increased production. “It’s been an ideal growing season, and we’re looking at quality that’s as good as or better than we’ve ever had,” she stated.

According to Bruce Turner, director of sales for Curry & Co. in Brooks, OR, favorable growing conditions mean producers will ramp up production a week earlier than they did in 2012. “We have already written several ads for July 4th, something we haven’t been able to do for several years,” he commented.

And Cindy Jewell, director of marketing for California Giant Blueberry Farms in Watsonville, CA, said consumer demand continues to grow, and retail is responding. “While strawberries still lead the berry category, blueberries are a very strong second year-in and year-out,” she stated.

In July, 2012, the Oregon Department of Agriculture released its publication, Oregon Agriculture: Facts and Figures. The report provided a snapshot of agricultural production for 2011. The Beaver State ranked third nationally for its blueberry production that season, accounting for 19 percent of domestic production. Oregon ranked blueberries as its eighth top commodity at a value of $116.8 million in 2011. Blueberries were produced on 7,800 acres, and production was set at 65.5 million pounds.

The Washington Department of Agriculture released its report, The Pride of Washington State, in October 2012. In 2011, Washington was the nation’s fifth-largest blueberry producer, accounting for 14.1 percent of national supplies. The commodity ranked 15th among the Evergreen State’s top agricultural commodities with a value of production set at $122 million.

The National Agricultural Statistics Service of the U.S. Department of Agriculture provided some insights into blueberry production in 2012. According to the report, Noncitrus Fruits and Nuts 2012 Preliminary Summary, which was issued this past January, Oregon harvested 7,900 acres of blues in 2012 with utilized fresh production set at 37.5 million pounds. Washington harvested 8,000 acres, and its utilized fresh production was 35 million pounds.

In 2012, the price per pound for fresh blues was $2.04 in Oregon and $1.49 in Washington.