Teddy Koukoulis of Wish Farms Talks How the Blueberry Market will Fare Following Deep Freezes
PLANT CITY, FL - The Southern states have been cold this winter, and berry growers are feeling the effects. I spoke with Teddy Koukoulis, Wish Farms’ Director of Blueberry Operations, about how the blueberry market will fare following the region’s deep freezes.
“South Georgia blueberries were hurt by the freeze events this winter,” Koukoulis tells me. “It will certainly affect Wish Farms and the industry as a whole because there will be a lighter supply. Our farms in North Florida will continue to push volume through the transition period, but volume is expected to be lighter compared to last season.”
It is early blueberry varieties in Georgia that have taken the most significant hit. Koukoulis shared that there are currently estimates of 25-30% loss, and in some regions as high as 50% loss, causing a significantly lighter volume for early Georgia fruit than in past seasons. Georgia production should start near the last week of April or first week of May, as opposed to the typical start time of mid-April.
“Because of the freeze events, we anticipate higher than average pricing due to lack of early season supply out of Georgia,” says Koukoulis.
Despite the setbacks in early production out of Georgia, Wish Farms believes this will not affect the quality of the region’s berries. The quality of Florida blueberries in particular have been above-average, and this is expected to continue throughout the Florida season. The company’s volume and supply in Florida are also expected to improve.
“This season, our Florida volume is increasing by 50%. This increase is a combination of adding a few key growers and retaining past growers,” says Koukoulis. “We have been extremely cognizant of adding the appropriate supply each season specific for each region. Controlled manageable growth is a strategic focus for our blueberry team. We want to ensure we do the best job we can for our growers and our retail partners.”
In terms of market share, Wish Farms is expecting to obtain a Florida organic blueberry share similar to its Florida organic strawberries this past season. This is good news for retailers, Koukoulis suggests.
“Right now we are in a transition period. Many retailers are starting to come out of the Chilean blueberry season and move into Florida. Retailers and consumers are excited that domestic blueberry season is starting.”
All signs point to an easy recovery for Wish Farms. Stay tuned to AndNowUKnow for the latest updates on the blueberry market.