The 2011 North Carolina blueberry crop was of excellent quality due to the combination of a dry harvest season and good labor availability, which allowed growers to harvest top-quality fruit in a timely fashion. Most growers began harvesting around 16 May, with the bulk of the crop a few days early overall. Total volume was slightly reduced compared to the previous year, due to weather. The primary weather-related causes of loss were poor pollination in late March/early April, and drought during June and July.
In southeastern NC, cool, wet weather for an eight-day period (25 Mar to 1 Apr) decreased bee activity and thus pollination success of flowers that were blooming during that time, and reduced the volume of fruit on ‘Croatan’ and other cultivars in the same flowering period. In late April, small, unexpanded berries that had not been adequately pollinated were falling off the bushes at many locations. Not all fields were affected to the same degree, because bloom times vary by location and cultivar.
A drought from late May through July resulted in some shriveled fruit and loss of berry size, which accounts in part for the slight reduction in overall yield for the state. The drought was a real challenge -- most growers have irrigation, and with near-constant watering were able to keep fields from getting too dry; however fields without irrigation were severely affected and some bushes were lost.
Price and volume data were obtained from eight major shippers in the 2011 season. The first price reported for flats of 12-1 pint cups with lids was on May 17. Prices ranged mostly $20.50-$22.00. The last f.o.b. price report was issued on July 08 at $16.00. Approximately 29 million pounds, an equivalent of 3.2 million 12 1-pint flats, were shipped for fresh market. There was also an additional 7.7 million pounds processed (frozen). This total (fresh + processed) of 36.7 million pounds represents a record volume of berries harvested for fresh sales, a reduced volume of processed berries (frozen), and a slight reduction in overall pounds for the state.
Price and volume data provided by Karrie Gonzalez, NC Market News