2023 Blueberry Yield, Demand Good Despite Challenges for Growers

Alma, GA

Here in Alma, Albert Wildes and his crew are hard at work harvesting this season’s crop of fresh blueberries – a time of year Wildes is no doubt excited to see, especially after having a couple of scares with mother nature, starting with the arctic blast late last year and some late freezes earlier this Spring.

“Fortunately, the blueberries were dormant enough it did a minimal amount of damage. After that time, we had some frost events, but not really extremely cold events,” says Albert Wildes Owner of Wildes Farm. “The southern high bush that was in bloom during that time on my farm, and most farms, had overhead protection to protect the bloom. The Rabbiteyes had not bloomed out, and we didn’t get a frost on the Rabbiteyes this year.”

Wildes says because of that, his yields on this season’s crop have been great so far and he even says the weather has been nothing short of ideal for harvesting as well.

“The yields thus far have been good. We have run into, in these Rabbiteye, we’ve run into some packing issues, but fortunately they’re doing okay. We haven’t had any big rain events. That’s what will really hurt you sometimes at this stage of the game, is you get a low down in the Gulf and you get about four days of rain then the berries will split. We haven’t had that, so the softs that we’ve had, we’ve been able to kind of work through them and everything’s been pretty good,” says Wildes.

One thing Wildes believes isn’t good however are berries being imported from other countries like Mexico and Peru that are undermining growers here in Georgia and across the U.S.

“To me, that’s one of the biggest challenges that we’re facing now is the imports. Unfortunately, those imports are being brought in by American companies, but we are facing that problem with Mexico and Peru as they’ve changed their varieties, they’ve moved to different elevations, and they can basically put them here anytime they want to,” says Wildes.

However, according to Wildes, demand has been strong this season, as he says Florida growers are still reeling after hurricane Ian last Fall and other areas are either behind or didn’t have their typical yields.

“Demand for blueberries has been strong. The market has been stronger than we expected. Part of it is from demand. Part of it, unfortunately for our fellow growers in Florida, they were hurt by the hurricane last fall and their yields were off, and I guess we took advantage of their misfortune, and I say I’m sorry for them. Also what we have heard is that perhaps California was a little bit late. Mexico didn’t come in quite at the time they were expected to, and perhaps not quite the volume that was expected,” says Wildes.

By: John Holcomb