Oregon Blueberry Commission
As the 2018 Oregon blueberry harvest season heads toward its peak, all signs point to a record crop and high-quality fruit.
“We should see a pretty big jump this year from a roughly 107 million-pound harvest in 2017 to projections in 2018 of 125, 130 or possibly even beyond 130 million pounds,” said Bryan Ostlund, administrator of the Oregon Blueberry Commission. “This absolutely should be a record crop.”
The current record, harvested in 2016, is 116 million pounds.
The one big factor growers mention when speaking of this year’s blueberry crop is cooperating weather, which has contributed to good quality fruit.
“The mild weather has brought the fruit on slow, which has contributed to good quality fruit, and the dry weather has kept that quality up,” said grower Doug Krahmer of Berries Northwest.
“The cool weather has helped us out quite a bit,” said Jeff Malensky of Oregon Berry Packing in Hillsboro.
Yields, both growers agreed, are well above last year when high summer temperatures hurt yield and quality, and slightly above average.
“We ended up with a short crop in 2017, and usually when you have a short crop, those plants come back in a vigorous way with heavy fruit set, and that is exactly what we have seen this year,” Ostlund said.
“This mild weather also has helped the labor situation, because it gives you a bigger window to get the fruit harvested,” Krahmer said. “I have not heard of any labor-shortage issues.”
“We haven’t been behind in fields,” Malensky said, “in large part because of the cool weather, and also because there is more labor available than folks originally thought.”
Even the price for fresh blueberries has been good to date, growers said, but that could change with British Columbia now coming onto the market. Still, there is some good news on that front in that early projections of a big crop in British Columbia have been scaled back. Current projections out of British Columbia are for an average crop. The bad news, however, as Krahmer put it: “An average crop in B.C. is still a lot of fruit.”
Growers to date have no news on the frozen price for the 2018 crop.
“It is a little early,” Malensky said on July 6. “We are just at the front end of the processed fruit starting to come in, so we will get a better idea in the next 10 days how the processed price is looking.”
Asked to summarize the season to date, Malensky said: “Overall, things are pretty good. Could they be better? Yes. Could they be a lot worse? Yes.”
“At this point in time, I’d say things are looking pretty good,” Krahmer said.