Frozen blueberries are selling at a steady clip, but carryover stocks from 2008's crop are still huge, according to industry experts.
Sales seem to have picked up speed late last year, with warehouse stocks falling by 4 percent in October, 6 percent in November and 7 percent in December 2008, according to the USDA's National Agricultural Statistics Service.
At 153.7 million pounds, year-end frozen blueberry inventories in 2008 were nonetheless 35 percent higher than in 2007 and 55 percent higher than in 2006.
"The movement has been decent. It's just a lot of fruit that is still sitting in the freezer," said small fruits analyst Rod Cook of Ag-View Consulting.
Cook notes prices for berries are down since harvest time:
"Sometimes it's as big a challenge to get fruit into a freezer as anything else," said Cook. "Some have been so full they haven't been capable of taking additional fruit."
The strong supply has depressed frozen blueberry prices, which now range from $0.80 to $1.05 per pound, he said. "The price has definitely retreated from harvest time, 20 cents or more."
You can hear more on the Oregon blueberry market prospects for 2009 at the Eastern Washington Blueberry Workshop March 12, 2009 in Prosser, WA, free to the first 80 advance registrants.
ps. how do you get the title "Blueberry marketing expert"? sign me up!