Nation’s Monster Blueberry Crop Smashes Prices For Farmers

By Anna King

North America’s blueberry crop is so substantial this year that farmers say prices are dropping. That’s after about a decade of rapid expansion of new plantings.

The Northwest is one of the top producers of blueberries in the nation. July is the peak of harvest. This summer, farmers say prices are dropping because of the glut of berries. Photo by Anna KingThe Northwest is one of the top producers of blueberries in the nation. July is the peak of harvest.

Dozens of workers at the Middleton Farm outside of Eltopia, Wash. stoop over chest high rows of bushes. It’s hot, but they’re they’re bundled in hoodies, scarves, hats – anything to shield against the blazing sun.

Blueberries are some of the most profitable crops in Washington, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture. That explains why farms have been planting thousands of acres in the last decade. And the result this year?

Alan Schreiber: “We’re having just record volumes of blueberries.

That’s Alan Schreiber, the head of Washington’s Blueberry Commission. He says all that supply pushes prices down.

The Northwest is one of the top producers of blueberries in the nation. July is the peak of harvest. This summer, farmers say prices are dropping because of the glut of berries. Photo by Anna King

Alan Schreiber: “Last year Washington produced 70 million pounds of blueberries which was in itself a record. But this year we are estimating that we have 80 million pounds of blueberries, 10 million more pounds than last year.”

Oregon, New Jersey, Michigan and Canada are all flush with blueberries too. A mild winter and spring and some recent hot weather, have made the berries mostly ripen all at once.

And that’s created a problem. Schreiber says a blueberry can last only about a month in cold storage once it’s picked. And grocery stores only have so much space.

Over in Prosser, Wash., I meet up with Suzanne Wolter. She’s with Rainier Fruit, one of the largest fruit growing and packing companies in the U.S. Wolter says the overall demand for blueberries remains strong, even if there is a glut right now.

Suzanne Wolter: “It’s all cyclical. Should we be overly concerned about it? No. Should we go out and plant thousands of more acres? Probably not.”

Wolter says this all adds up to a boon for blueberry lovers this July.

071613AK_Blueberry_1.jpg
The Northwest is one of the top producers of blueberries in the nation. July is the peak of harvest. This summer, farmers say prices are dropping because of the glut of berries.


071613AK_Blueberry_2.jpg
Alan Schreiber heads Washington’s Blueberry Commission.

071613AK_Blueberry_3.jpg
Dozens of workers at the Middleton Farm outside of Eltopia, Wash., stoop over chest high rows of bushes. It’s hot, but they’re they’re bundled in hoodies, scarves, hats – anything to shield against the blazing sun.

071613AK_Blueberry_4.jpg
Leonard Flores, 27, a forklift operator checks out the just picked fruit at Middleton Farms near Eltopia, Wash.

Download
Currently Playing
Schedule Grid KPBX 91.1
Morning Edition
5:00am 9:00am
Schedule Grid KSFC 91.9
Morning Edition
6:00am 8:00am
Click for Spokane, Washington Forecast
SPR Family of Underwriters: