President's Letter: Reflecting on the 2017 Harvesting Season

Final figures are not in yet, but it looks like we will end up harvesting about 20 million pounds of blueberries this past season.  This is much better than last season, but not as good as some seasons past. While most growers I have spoken to say they had a “good” harvest, we were all disappointed with prices this season.  Prices seemed to follow the calendar instead of being based on true supply and demand.

For the first time that I recall, we did see prices for our fruit go up significantly near the end of the season when the predicted shortfall from Georgia due to a freeze event became a reality.

Several million pounds of Mexican blueberries also made it into our market window, further suppressing prices for Florida fruit.

The missing piece to this puzzle continues to be information.  If we can develop a crop forecast system for our Florida blueberry crop, produce buyers might be encouraged to be a bit more loyal to local growers.  Most grocery stores are talking local, but still buying whatever they can get at the best price.

If you are contacted for the acreage survey to help us build the crop forecast system, please participate and encourage other growers to do the same.  This is the last piece of the puzzle we need to get the forecast system up and running.

Also, by organizing an emergency conference call, your FBGA Board of Directors and Executive Committee put together a position letter on the re-negotiation of the NAFTA trade agreement.

We hope the new NAFTA will emerge as a document that gives Florida blueberry growers more protection from foreign imports during our market window.

We also put on a “Florida Blueberry Day” at the Capitol in Tallahassee on April 12, where we fed hot dogs with a wonderful blueberry relish, blueberry pie, and blueberry wine from Island Grove Winery to over 600 legislators and staff.  We got a lot of help for this event from our friends at the Florida Blueberry Festival too.  As a result of this effort, the folks in Tallahassee now know a bit more about the size and scope of our industry and also some of the challenges we face that they can help us solve in the legislature when the time comes.

Your FBGA Board of Directors and Executive Committee continue to work for you to make our industry stronger and more profitable.  Please contact us if we can assist you with any issues or concerns you may have.

As always, I wish everyone a safe and productive summer growing season and look forward to seeing you all at our fall meeting and trade show on October 26 at the Trinkle Center in Plant City.

Dudley Calfee
President, Florida Blueberry Growers Association

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