US: Retail berry sales to increase 7% annually

Consumers are buying more berries, be they strawberries, raspberries, blueberries or blackberries. The agricultural lending company Rabobank sees retail berry sales continuing to increase by 7% annually for the next three years.

Rabobank’s Food and Agribusiness Research and Advisory group recently released a report, titled “The U.S. Fresh Berry Boom — Who Will Profit from the Growth?”

Not surprisingly, the report notes, California will continue to be the leading producer of fresh berries for strawberries, blueberries, raspberries and blackberries. The sharpest gains in recent years have been with strawberries and blueberries.

California produces 88% of the country’s fresh strawberries and significant portions of fresh blueberries, raspberries and blackberries. Florida is also a significant producer of fresh berries.

During the fall and winter months strawberry and blueberry imports from Mexico and Chile compete directly with Florida’s season. Chile now accounts for over 50% of imported blueberries.

Consumers are now purchasing more berries that have been grown south of British Columbia and continuing all the way along the coast to Chile. This shift will continue following seasonal patterns and will also see increased volume in the more southern regions.

Over the past five years, California has shown tremendous growth in strawberry production. In 2008, the state produced 114 million cartons of strawberries, which grew to 181 million cartons in 2010. In 2011, volume actually slipped to 178 million cartons but this year the total volume should be in the 190 million carton range.

The majority of those gains come from increased yields. California’s strawberry acreage totalled 36,519 acres in 2008, but was down to 37,732 acres this year.

It is a different story for blueberries. Worldwide statistics show total world acreage of blueberries has grown significantly over the years. It has quadrupled in the past 15 years and now sits near 200,000 acres with most of that being in North and South America. The Americas represent close to 80% of the world’s blueberry acreage and production.

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