California Strawberry Market Strengthening, Same Goes for Blueberrries in United States

Peter Skolnick, president of Monterey, California, USA-Imperial Frozen Foods, has posted an update on conditions of fruit crops and markets in the Northwestern United States, as follows:

California Strawberries: The Golden State started the season with a great deal of enthusiasm and major volume in April. Then the normal peak production in June never came to be. The result was too much in April, not enough volume in June. This created a little bit of a panic in the market and a sharp increase in field pricing and selling prices. A few of the processors went "off the market," which was smart because one doesn't want to sell what one doesn't have.

California is 18 million pounds short of last year (2012). That is only 5% short, however, and with good demand the net effect is a strengthening market. The biggest concern in California is a labor shortage. Strawberries are hand picked.  Unless the labor issue is resolved buyers are going to continue to see pressure on adequate supply.

Meanwhile, the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) cold storage report for June 2013 shows an adequate supply of strawberries except for IQF.

Cultivated Blueberries: A recent visit to the Pacific Northwest confirmed that the weather was perfect and the blueberries looked great. Reports from Skolnick's favorite grower in Michigan show an adequate supply there too. Field pricing strengthened slightly in the last week.  This is due to strong demand for fresh and frozen blueberries, not inadequate supply.

USDA cold storage reports show a nearly 25% increase in blueberry holdings, with a commensurate increase in movement.  Pricing, although lower than 2012, is yet to be determined.

Raspberries: Ideal growing conditions in Washington State have allowed raspberries to be harvested and utilized for IQF raspberries.  This is a big deal.  Washington and British Columbia, Canada, are the biggest growers of raspberries in North America.

Unlike blueberries, the majority of the raspberries grown in the Pacific Northwest go to processing.  Despite the big crop, pricing is strong on all pack styles of raspberries.

Chile is the next significant source of raspberries.  If the pipeline is filled by the Pacific Northwest then it is possible Chilean raspberry growers and packers will be surprised by the modest demand compared to last year.  Demand for raspberries is not as elastic as blueberries or strawberries.

Blackberries: Blackberries for processing in North America are primarily grown in Oregon, and  weather conditions have been excellent in the state's Willamette Valley.  The temperamental Marion Blackberry survived the winter and spring quite well.  Pricing on all varieties of blackberries is stable.

Blackberries from Mexico and Chile will begin production in late fall early winter.

As for current pricing trends, Jon Waxman of Imperial Frozen Foods recently offered the following quotes bulk special quotes:

  • IQF Whole Organic Argentine Strawberries - 2013 pack - 30 lb case - $1.70 per lb - FOB East Coast USA.
  • New Price - IQF Whole California Strawberries - 30 lb case - One load - $.92 per lb - FOB California.
  • Frozen Cultivated Small Michigan Blueberries - 2012 pack - 30 lb case - $1.00 per lb - FOB Michigan
  • IQF RTP Cherries, product of Poland - Pits 1-10 kg - $1.25 per lb - FOB East Coast Dock.
  • IQF Whole Cranberries - 40 lb case - $.55 per lb -  FOB Wisconsin.