Each year, hundreds of small blueberry growers in Florida harvest two main types of the fruit – Rabbiteye and Southern Highbush. Capitalizing on Florida’s unique climate, farmers take advantage of the gap in production from their competitors from late March until early May, with the Sunshine State producing the world’s only blueberries. Due to the exclusive window, farm prices are high for six to eight weeks, generating enough income to sustain farmers for the entire year. Over the last quarter-century, commercial blueberry production in Florida has reached even greater heights with totals growing each year. Though Florida isn’t the top producer in the nation, blueberry experts expect its growth trend to continue for the foreseeable future.
North central Florida (Alachua, Marion, Putnam, Sumter, and Lake counties) is the primary area of blueberry production, , and has the most potential for growth due to its ideal climate. There are several budding areas in central Florida for blueberry production including Polk, Orange, Pasco, Hernando, and Hillsborough counties. Based on the latest reports, profits generated from Florida blueberries continue to increase with $82.3 million in cash receipts in 2015. While Florida ranks 8th in the US for blueberry production, the industry also supports 1,422 jobs and has a tax revenue of $5.93 million.
Commercial blueberry production in some Southeast states was severely impacted by the recent Mid-March freeze that affected both blooms and fruit. Up until the point of freezing temperatures, both Florida and Georgia blueberry crops were slated to start 2-3 weeks early. However, extreme cold temperatures have negatively impacted the Georgia season, causing both loss of crops and anticipated delays in peak production. Additionally, Florida production has remained on the light side during the month of March partly due to the mid-March weather. Retail blueberry prices still remain high, which is reflective of overall light US volumes.
In 1990, the Florida Agricultural Promotional Campaign (FAPC) was created to increase consumer awareness and expand the market for Florida’s agricultural products, including blueberries. Today, the campaign, known as “Fresh From Florida,” has grown into a worldwide brand through domestic and international retail partnerships, developing close relationships with agriculture and seafood producers, and the successful implementation of consumer advertising campaigns.
During the last five years, 28 chains have placed “Fresh From Florida” blueberry ads in its retail marketing campaigns, including BI-LO, Food Basics (Canada), Kroger, Publix and as far away as FairPrice in Singapore. Over 12,000 stores, including 65 retail chains in 25 nations, take part annually.
There are numerous benefits to joining “Fresh From Florida,” including discounted industry trade show participation, co-op advertising and promotion opportunities, trade leads and exporting assistance, subscription to the “Fresh From Florida” magazine and e-newsletter, and a customized “Fresh From Florida” business sign. We would love to have you as a member of the “Fresh From Florida” program! To join, please give us a call at 850-617-7399, or visit www.FreshFromFlorida.com/join.