Signs are pointing to an increased Northwest blueberry volume in 2013 for Curry & Co., headquartered in Brooks, OR.
“We have geared up our shed for an increase over last year’s tonnage by about 15 percent,” said Director of Sales Bruce Turner. “We expect the fresh crop to be up this year, especially because of the newer plantings that are now maturing into full harvest.”
The company’s acreage has slightly increased this season with new plantings, mostly in later varieties that are harvested in late July and throughout August.
“We had great weather in April. A couple of weeks in the low 80s gave us great pollination on the Duke variety,” Turner said. “Since then, the weather has been fairly mild and consistent, and we expect to start the harvest a full week ahead of last year. We have already written several ads for July Fourth, something we haven’t been able to do for several years.”
The Duke harvest was expected to begin around June 20. Turner expects the marketing window for the variety will be somewhat compressed, with volume finishing up the second week of July. “But Oregon’s growers have been steadily planting Legacy, Aurora, Draper, Liberty and others that will extend the season well into September,” he added.
He was asked about sizing and quality for Northwest blues this season. “Mother Nature plays a big role here,” he replied. “But growing conditions to date look to give us a crop with very consistent sizing and excellent packout yields. California’s crop was one of the highest quality we’ve ever seen this year, and we expect to follow suit in Oregon.”
All of the company’s blueberries are conventional at this time. “But we are developing some organic acreage for 2015,” Turner stated.
Blues are marketed under the “Curry & Co.” label. Although the company markets to wholesale and foodservice clients, it has a strong retail customer base in the western United States.
“Curry has promoted our ‘local’ presence with Northwest retailers for many years, and it remains the cornerstone of our marketing programs,” Turner noted. “Due to our growing volumes in the past three years, we are now exporting more fruit into Canada and Asia. But export is less than 20 percent of our total.”
Consumer interest in blueberries continues to grow. “Consumption of blueberries in North America has doubled since 2007; that’s in only five years,” Turner commented. “We were a little concerned that consumers would be a little apprehensive after the tough-quality season Chile had this winter. But with the heavy demand for early fruit from California, Georgia and Florida, it’s clear that consumers in the USA and Canada are really smart; when the blueberries are good, they’re going to buy them.”
During the past five years, Turner said retail outlets in North America have been merchandising larger pack sizes. “This year, we have seen a lot of renewed interest in our five-pound bulk box,” he said.
He credited the company’s growth in the blueberry sector to forward-thinking business practices. “Curry & Co. is one of the innovators in Oregon blueberries,” Turner said.
“Gary Curry, our current president’s father, encouraged onion growers in the Labish Basin to diversify and plant blueberries back in the early 1980s,” he continued. “We have a proud heritage as one of the earliest participants in the blueberry industry, and we are excited to see Gary’s legacy continuing so strongly at Curry & Co. Many of our grower partners have been with Curry since those humble beginnings, and we are really proud of these relationships.”