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Berry growers keep eye on competitive forces

While berry growers are hoping for a future that includes mechanical harvesting, they’re also keeping an eye on producers in Mexico and other export countries, who continue to make strides in production.

“They’re planting more acreage for strawberries in Mexico,” said Steve Sterling, general manager of Fresh-Link Produce, LLC in Lake Park, GA. “Over the years they’ve gotten better at what they do; they’ve just evolved.”

Gary Wishnatzki, co-founder of Harvest CROO Robotics and owner of Wish Farms, too, is familiar with the threat from Mexican imports.

“They’re a big competitor on strawberries, and they’re starting to be on blueberries,” he said.
Another concern is perishability and long-distance shipping, which requires continual communication throughout the supply chain.

Always Fresh Farms in Winter Haven, FL, works hard to keep in touch with retailers to better manage supply and demand. It takes about two and a half weeks to ship blueberries from Chile to the United States, and Jack Cain, vice president of sales and marketing for Always Fresh, said it’s important to update retailers with accurate forecasts from growers for projected volume, “so they have price points in place that match.”

There is also more competition from within the United States.

“The acreage devoted to blueberries in Georgia has expanded greatly over the last ten years,” Sterling said. “There are new varieties that can withstand the heat, and the growers are better at growing them.”

This is an excerpt from the most recent Produce Blueprints quarterly journal. Click here to read the full version.