(June 18) Cool weather is delaying harvest of blueberries, strawberries and blackberries in Oregon, with most deals running up to two weeks behind schedule, grower-shippers said.

The first berries out of the gate for Oregon Berry Packing Co., Hillsboro, were strawberries, which began harvesting June 15, said Brian Malensky, vice president of domestic sales.

Typically, the company’s strawberry deal begins about June 4, Malensky said. Other deals will be similarly delayed, he said, with blueberries set to begin about July 4 and blackberries in late July or early August.

VBM International Berry LLC, a division of Giumarra Bros. Fruit Co. Inc., Los Angeles, expects to begin shipping Oregon blues about June 26, 10 to 14 days later than normal, said Stan Crafton, general manager.

Hurst's Berry Farm Inc., Sheridan, Ore., expects to begin shipping blueberries about July 1, about 10 days later than usual, with volume shipments not expected until July 10, said Mark Hurst, president.

Blackberries are expected to begin shipping about July 5, about two weeks behind schedule, with no volumes until about July 12, Hurst said.

Acreage continues to go up for blueberries because of high demand, Malensky said. Oregon typically has the West Coast deal largely to itself for 10 days to two weeks before British Columbia growers begin harvesting, he said.

Crafton said the Oregon blueberry deal grows about 25% per year, and he expects continued excellent demand this year. Oregon fruit typically comes on when California production is winding down, he said.

Hurst expected pent-up demand to produce strong markets for Oregon product.

“We expect demand for blueberries and blackberries to be very good,” he said. “Because of the late season here, there will be a larger than usual gap between California and Oregon.”

Berry f.o.b. pricing

On June 17, the U.S. Department of Agriculture reported prices of $26-28.90 for flats of 12 1-pint cups of medium and large blueberries from California, up from $20-20.90 last year at the same time.

Flats of 12 6-ounce cups of blackberries from California were $14-18, down from $16.90-17.90 last year at the same time.

British Columbia production should begin in mid-July, Crafton said.

Oregon Berry Packing’s blueberries should run into October and its blackberry deal until about mid-September, Malensky predicted.

The cool weather should have no adverse effect on quality and actually should make fruit size better, Malensky said. Hurst also reported good sizing on blueberries.

It was too early to forecast quality and size for the 2008 Oregon crop, Crafton said June 16.

Weather delays Oregon berry harvest