(July 12) With New Jersey’s blueberry deal winding down, grower-shippers in Michigan are optimistic about steady markets for their high-quality crop.

“We have a picking crew coming from New Jersey that will be here by the end of this week, so their volumes will be down as we go heavy,” Carol Bowerman, owner of Bowerman Blueberries Ltd., Holland, Mich., said July 10. “It should work out nice. From what I hear, prices should be decent.”

On July 11, the U.S. Department of Agriculture reported prices of $17-18 for flats of 12 1-pint medium-large cups from Michigan, up from $13.25 at the same time last year.

About 117 million pounds of blueberries had shipped nationwide through July 8, up from 87 million pounds at the same time in 2005, according to the USDA.

Bowerman Blueberries’ deal should get under way about July 24, slightly later than normal, with volume by about Aug. 1, Bowerman said. Other grower-shippers were under way in early July. Bowerman’s deal should run until about Oct. 1, she said.

The company is harvesting on 90 acres, similar to last year, Bowerman said. Yields should be decent, though she said it was hard to speculate too much in advance. They will definitely be higher than last year, she said, when freezing temperatures during the growing season cut yields in half.

Michigan could use some more rain, Bowerman said, but otherwise, weather has been ideal for blueberries, with no long hot spells.

STRONG DEMAND

Grower-shippers continue to benefit from news in recent years about blueberries’ healthfulness, said Kirk McCreary, general manager of MBG Marketing, Grand Junction, Mich.

MBG’s deal began slowly in early July with volume by the second week of the month, McCreary said. The deal should peak in mid- to late-July and end about Sept. 1, with storage shipments continuing into late October or early November, he said. The state’s main variety, the blue, began harvesting the second week in July.

Though New Jersey growers also will probably be shipping blueberries into the fourth week of July, McCreary did not anticipate the oversupply that plagued Michigan growers in past years.

“The two crops have meshed quite well,” he said. “We’re somewhat in each other’s ways, but it’s not too serious.”

Volume should be up despite an exceptionally dry late spring and early summer, which could put a dent in yields, McCreary said. The dry weather has, however, produced fruit of excellent quality and adequate sizing, he said.