By Clint Thompson
Blueberry prices have not improved much, and Mexican imports may be a reason why, says Florida farmer Ryan Atwood.
“I don’t think (prices have) move the needle much. Part of it is this Mexico deal. Mexico brought another 5 million pounds in last week. Mexico just keeps putting more and more fruit on our window, even Georgia’s window now,” Atwood said. “Normally, they would fall off by this time of year, but they’re going strong still for some reason.”
Atwood believes being dependent on other countries for food is a dangerous precedent, especially since farmers like himself are more than capable of producing crops.
“I’m a fan of having our own domestic supply of food. I think it’s a security issue for our country. We’ve got to grow our own food. You saw what happened 10 or 12 years ago when we used to import all that oil and then we got own domestic supply going again. Other countries are going to be able to control you if they control your food supply,” Atwood said. “I just don’t see where it’s in our best interest to allow these foreign competitors into our market when we have a domestic supply of fruit.”
Atwood, who lives in Mount Dora, Florida, is one of the state’s blueberry leaders. He farms 56 acres of blueberries, manages another 350 acres and is part-owner of the largest packing house in the Southeast United States.
Unfortunately, Atwood’s blueberry crop this year was harvested at an inopportune time. He started picking high volumes of blueberries around March 18 when the coronavirus pandemic shut down the country. The market dropped almost overnight.
“I think it went from about $5.50 a pound, which is a really great price to you couldn’t hardly move the fruit; you would be lucky to sell it at all, like within two days,” Atwood said.
Atwood believes prices can improve but various components will have to factor in growers’ favor.
“I could see Georgia coming off their peak and North Carolina have some early damage, and I think two weeks from now could get interesting. That’s me just guessing,” Atwood said. “If Mexico actually does stop putting fruit over here, at some point they will fall off. If North Carolina’s early crop is not there and Georgia is over its peak, I could see the market tightening up a little bit.
“I won’t have any fruit in here, but I could see it being good for somebody.”