Publisher's Interlude: Turning Point

Nobody ever said farming was easy. There will always be anticipated trials and victories, and there will even be unexpected challenges. So it’s a good thing Florida blueberry growers are so resilient in the face of adversity. No other time has made that more evident than the past two years. Blindsided by a pandemic that left many with no way to unload their crops only to see their hard work get lost in the tsunami of cheap foreign exports, particularly from Mexico, growers faced a crucial deciding point. Some smaller farms, unable to compete with the influx, were forced to shutter operations. Still, last year marked a turning point of sorts because as it turns out, the 2021 season was pretty decent for most Florida growers. Here’s why.

Stability and Technology
While prices were down for most of the 2020 season, growers reported much more consistent prices in 2021. A substantial freeze hindered Mexican growers during Florida’s prime window, eliminating some of that foreign competition and helping to stabilize the market. That new stability of the market and price offered the break many of our growers needed to get back on their feet, something they haven’t been able to do in quite some time. The end result was a profitable season that enabled growers to look to the future instead of remaining in survival mode.

Heading into 2022, larger producers are hopeful as the technological advances of mechanical harvesting may finally give them a weapon to fight Mexico’s edge of cheap labor. Perhaps just as promising is the fact that many growers in the state are planting new bushes.

Will imports still present a formidable challenge? Definitely. Thankfully, the Florida Blueberry Growers Association Board of Directors and Brittany Lee are hard at work with the USHBC and NABC to craft a plan to strengthen the industry. You can read more about their work in Lee’s letter (page 4) and the USHBC update (page 36).

It’s all part of that resilience I mentioned. Just like strong roots help a plant to prosper, strong people help the industry survive and thrive. These are our people.

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