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How late-season berries are doing

Overview of the berries prices, complemented by charts from Agronometrics.

Original published in on July 28, 2021 

Consumers want strawberries and blueberries more and more as late summer melts into fall, while California battles the drought to give them what they want.

Strawberries saw a 25% price spike in organic and a 10% spike in conventional on ad, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s National Retail Report. The report analyzed supermarket advertisements from more than 3,000 stores from July 10-22 and compared those numbers to the same week last year.

Strawberries, blueberries and raspberries comprised 20% of retailers’ fruit ads.

“Our berries this season are doing exceptionally well,” said Dan Crowley, vice president of sales and marketing for Well-Pict, Watsonville, Calif.

Strawberries are the third-most-popular fruit among consumers after longtime favorites bananas and apples, according to the Produce Marketing Association. Blueberries made the top 10 list as well at No. 10.

Blueberries — and especially strawberries — were advertised at higher prices in mid-July this year than at the same time last year, while blackberries and raspberries were cheaper.

The weighted average advertised price for July 10-22, compared to the same time in 2020:

Packaged pints of blueberries were $2.52, compared with $2.48;

Price (in USD) of blueberries in the US Market
Source: USDA Market News via Agronometrics.
(Agronometrics users can view this chart with live updates here)

5.6-6-ounce packages of blackberries were $3.30, compared with $3.49;

Price (in USD) of 6-ounce packages blackberries in the US Market
Source: USDA Market News via Agronometrics.
(Agronometrics users can view this chart with live updates here)

6-ounce packages of red raspberries were $3.46, compared with $3.66; and

1-pound packages of strawberries were $3.65, compared with $2.92.

Price (in USD) of 1-pound packages of strawberries in the US Market
Source: USDA Market News via Agronometrics.
(Agronometrics users can view this chart with live updates here)


Drought-ridden California usually produces 90% of domestically grown strawberries.

The state has produced 130.3 million flats of strawberries this season through July 18, compared to 137.5 million last season up to the same date, according to the California Strawberry Commission’s report of data compiled from the USDA. The 7 million-flat loss was felt mostly in the Salinas-Watsonville growing region, which last year was the highest producing region but fell behind Santa Maria this year.

According to the National Integrated Drought Information System, or, 85.7% of California is in extreme drought, meaning water is inadequate for agriculture and fruit trees will bud early and producers begin irrigating in the winter.

However, Well-Pict isn’t reporting weather problems for the crop.

“The upcoming months are looking very well,” Crowley said. “We have seen an increase in demand for organic products, and we expect this to be an ongoing trend.”

The company is focused on providing conventional and organic strawberries and raspberries.

Florida produced 27.3 million flats of strawberries this season compared to 30.9 million last season to date. North Carolina, on the other hand, produced about 544,000 compared to 515,000 last season so far — a small win, for that state at least.

Imports are more than making up for it.

Mexico’s imports in the same time period are at 63.3 million flats this season compared to 36.7 million last season. Canada has exported about 161,900 flats to the U.S. this season compared to 91,900 in 2020.

Chile’s volume to the U.S. has fallen.

Chilean strawberry imports reached about 20,600 flats this season, while hovering at 150,400 in the 2020 season.

New Jersey Department of Agriculture Secretary Douglas Fisher (center) with Sam Mento III (to his left) and Kathy Mento (to his right) and the Mento children celebrate the Jersey Fresh blueberry season. Photo courtesy New Jersey Department of Agriculture


New Jersey and Indiana’s blueberry season often lasts into August, according to Produce Market Guide.

“The blueberry season in the Garden State is one of the primary indicators that the Jersey Fresh season is at its peak,” New Jersey Department of Agriculture Secretary Douglas Fisher said during a visit to Mento Farms to promote Jersey Fresh blueberry season, according to a news release.

Blueberries were the No. 1 crop in New Jersey for 2020 with a production value of $85 million, according to the USDA. New Jersey annually ranks in the top six in the U.S. in the production of blueberries. The state’s growers harvested 46 million pounds of blueberries on 9,300 acres in 2020.

Sam Mento III, who owns and operates Mento Farms with wife Kathy, said the warmth and sunshine of the pollinating and growing season may have contributed to many of his northern highbush blueberries ripening a little earlier than usual and at the same time. Supplies typically last into the first or second week of August, but may trickle down by the end of July this season.

“So far, we’ve been very fortunate to be blessed with a nice crop,” he said. “The abundance of sunshine has made our berries plump and sweet. During pollination, the weather was great and the bees cooperated.”

Mento Farms has been growing blueberries in New Jersey for the past 14 years on a 50-acre operation. During the height of blueberry season, the state’s production can be as high as 250,000-300,000 crates per day.

Mento grows the newer duke variety, known for early ripening and a mild flavor that can improve with cold storage. He also grows the older bluecrop variety.

“That one is more tender, more finicky, but boy, the flavor is outstanding,” Mento said.

And about 5% of his crop is the late-season variety, called elliott.

Michigan, Oregon, Washington state and British Columbia, Canada’s blueberry seasons can extend into October.

As far as imports, Argentina’s season can run from September to December, according to Produce Market Guide. Mexico has blueberries all year except for June through August. Chile has them October through April, and Peru can ship blueberries September through April.

Hollister, Calif.-based Berry People has a year-round supply of conventional and organic blueberries after increasing partnerships in Peru, Chile and North America.

“We continue to have new acreage in play, and the crop-set looks heavier, and earlier, than last year,” CEO Michael Osumi said in a news release.

“We are expecting to begin shipping in August, a couple of weeks early, with peak arrivals planned for October through mid-December.”

The company has been planning solutions to pandemic-related packaging and pallet shortages and port of entry delays, with greater lead times for uninterrupted service and shipping both during the summer out of the Central Coast of California, and in the fall, winter and spring out of Southern California. Berry People also ships strawberries, raspberries and blackberries.

USDA Market News shows for the week ending July 17, domestic blueberry movement for the past 52 weeks was 711.1 million pounds — a 20% increase year from this time last year, according to the U.S. Highbush Blueberry Council. The average f.o.b. price per pound of blueberries was $3.41 — a 22-cent increase from the same time.

The News in Charts is a collection of stories from the industry complemented by charts from Agronometrics to help better tell their story.

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