(May 4) WINTER HAVEN, Fla. — New acreage being added to SunnyRidge Farm’s blueberry growing-shipping operations could almost double its volume and bring an earlier start to its Florida shipping window.

SunnyRidge Farm Inc. is expanding its early-season blueberry deal to eliminate gaps between the end of the Chilean blueberry deal and the start of Florida shipments.

Its new acreage could bring more than a million pounds to the deal, said Keith Mixon, president.

The grower-shipper, one of the East Coast’s largest, has added or plans to plant this year nearly 2,200 acres from its Florida, Georgia and North Carolina growing regions.

SunnyRidge plans to push the Florida window up a few weeks to give buyers more early spring supplies.

Florida blueberries normally start production in mid-April as Southern Hemisphere volume starts winding down in late February, leaving holes in early spring fresh berry supply. Florida volume normally peaks April 17-29.

SunnyRidge has added 220 acres this year and plans to plant another 150 acres from central Florida later in the year for April and May production.

In southern Georgia, SunnyRidge is expanding that deal from 1,000 to 2,500 acres for blooms to hit the market in 2007.

SunnyRidge is also adding 300 acres to its North Carolina operations.

The new acres will help SunnyRidge move its Florida window of promotable volumes up to April 1 and perhaps as early as March 27, Mixon said.

Fresh blueberries in April will be a new development for an industry use to winter boat arrivals before Florida peaks in production by the end of April. Georgia berries normally begin movement in early May with promotable volumes through July 4.

“We’re going to change the blueberry industry,” Mixon said.