Synopsis of: “The Organic Premium for California Blueberries” by Hoy Carmen, professor emeritus in the Agricultural and Resource Economics Dept., UC Davis
Commercial-scale production of blueberries in California is a relatively recent development. California first reported blueberry statistics in 2005 when there were 1,800 acres of blueberries harvested and production of 9.1 million pounds with a total value of $40.58 million. Harvested acres increased to 3,900 acres in 2010 with production of 28 million pounds and a total value of $75.98 million. Growth continued through 2015 with California Agricultural Statistics Survey (CASS) reporting 5,700 acres of blueberries harvested, production of 62.4 million pounds, and total value of $116.98 million.
California blueberries are shipped throughout the U.S. and to a number of export destinations. During the 2016 harvest, California's largest U.S. market was California, which accounted for 34.75% of California's total fresh blueberry shipments of 46,493,407 pounds.
The largest out-of-state domestic shipments were to Texas, Oregon, Washington, Arizona, New York, Minnesota, Utah, and Pennsylvania. These states collectively accounted for 36.54% of California shipments. Canadian shipments of 5.54 million pounds accounted for 11.9% of California's volume and made up 67.1% of exports.
Typically, the price per pound of organically grown blueberries is higher than for conventional production. Prices also vary by package size, with smaller package sizes usually selling for more per pound than larger packages. There is usually a premium for the first portion of the crop-marketing year, and the overall level of prices will vary by year. Prices can also be expected to vary by geographic location. California organic blueberries are among the first domestic fruit on the market when prices tend to be seasonally high.
Growth in California organic blueberry production has outpaced conventional production for several years, and California accounted for about half of the U.S. supply of organic blueberries in 2014. The organic share of California blueberry shipments in 2016 was 23.1% in terms of volume and 34.8% in terms of value. The larger share of value is due to the premium price for organic blueberries.
The organic premium, which averaged $2.28 per pound in both 2015 and 2016 (78–79% of the conventional fresh blueberry price), varies by package and over time. California has some of the earliest domestic blueberry production, with relatively high prices for both conventional and organic blueberries at the beginning of the season. The proportion of shipments that are organic decreases as the season progresses and the organic premium tends to be highest after the first one-third of the season. The growth of organic blueberry production in California, relative to overall California production as well as U.S. organic blueberry production, seems to indicate a comparative advantage for organic blueberries in California. Further growth of organic as well as total blueberry production in California is expected.
For the full article see:
Organic production costs, South Coast
Conventional costs, South Coast
Conventional, San Joaquin Valley
Report on US Organic Sales, 2016
USDA Specialty Crops, the Agricultural Marketing News Service and What's Worth Planting
The AMS Specialty Crops Program helps buyers and sellers of all sizes in the U.S. produce industry to market their perishable products in the most efficient manner. They partner with State agencies and other industry organizations for the benefit of nationwide growers, shippers, brokers, receivers, processors, retailers and restaurants, direct to consumer sales, and the foodservice industry.
The program offers a wide array of services that span from helping market the quality of products to ensuring that there is fair trade in the produce industry. The program also helps specialty crops growers and handlers to combine their resources to help their respective industries overcome marketing barriers.
This is also a great website for trolling for potential alternative crops – what is selling, where, for how much and whether it might be a good idea to plant that crop. Check it out:
Main page of AMS:
Choose from different fruits:
For avocados you can see what the various prices are in different markets and times:
If you are interested in coffee prices, it's still considered a "commodity" and a California grown coffee will not be listed:
The USDA Specialty Crops Program also has a food safety certification program that might be of help to growers. In April 2016, the Specialty Crops Program's Specialty Crops Inspection Division (SCI) launched GroupGAP, a new food safety certification program that is part of our USDA Good Agricultural Practices (GAP) suite of services. Our voluntary USDA GAP programs help verify that produce growers and handlers have taken measures to reduce the risk of contamination. Commercial buyers look for USDA GAP-certified suppliers to source safe specialty products. While larger operations can devote the resources needed to become GAP certified, some smaller entities cannot. Until now. GroupGAP allows farmers, food hubs, and marketing organizations of all sizes to band together and pool resources to achieve USDA GAP certification.
This is a story about phone calls that come in to my message machine. Yesterday I got 3 calls from PCAs (Pest Control Advisors) and two from growers. The two from growers were from a Papaya grower and the other from a dragon fruit grower that I am working with to develop an industry here in Santa Barbara/Ventura. One is in Carp the other in Montecito. The PCA calls were from two that work on avocado and the other from a citrus grower. I either get a call from an avocado grower direct because they can't afford a PCA or from the manager or the PCA of larger farms. From citrus it is usually the manager or the PCA. These are more developed industries and the grower usually lets the workers take care of problems because they are so familiar with the operations. When it ‘s a new crop, the owner steps in. They want to know all that can go wrong with this new crop.
Blueberries are expanding now along the coast and when we first started working on them 15 years ago, our collaborators were in touch with us constantly. Now it's the managers who call. Its now a developed industry. The same for coffee. When we started working on it we worked closely with out cooperators, now there is a coffee cooperative that takes care of itself. We work with new things. One of the calls from an avocado PCA was about a farm that is being infested with bagrada bug. Everything in the area has dried up from the drought. The bagarada bug normally goes after plants in the brassica family (cabbage, mustard, etc.), many of which are native and growing along streams and on hillsides. The streams and hills have dried up and the bug is now going to the new avocado leaf tissue and the PCA wanted the bug identified and to provide a solution to the problem.
Sometimes the weather works for us and sometimes against us. We've got a parasitic wasp for controlling olive fruit fly. We went out all over southern Santa Barabara county to groves of olive trees to determine where to release the wasp and could find healthy olives, but no olive fruit. No where to make to make releases this year. The weather plays tricks on us. But we keep looking for solutions. Maybe next year we will be able to study if and how the wasp controls olive fruit fly. It does in France.
Assessing water quality for Southern California agriculture typically revolves around the total salinity of the water, its total dissolved solids (TDS), and the toxic ions boron, sodium and chloride. Salts are necessary to plants, because it is in the form of diluted salts that all nutrients are taken up by plants- the macro and micronutrients plants extract from the soil. High salinity leads to water imbalance problems much as if the plant were not getting adequate water. A toxicity problem is different from a salinity problem, in that toxicity is a result of damage within the plant rather than a water shortage. Toxicity results when the plant takes up the toxic ions and accumulates the ions in the leaf. The leaf damage that occurs from both toxicity and salinity are similar in that it causes tissue death known commonly as "tip burn." The damage that occurs depends on the concentration of the ions in the soil water around the roots, the crop sensitivity and crop water use, and the length of time the crop experiences the ions. In many cases, yield reduction occurs. Because crops can not excrete salts the way humans do, salts gradually accumulate in a plant. As a result plants need a higher water quality than humans do.
Much study in many countries has gone into evaluating water for crop use. Some of these studies have been on the effects of salts on soil characteristics. Generally, as sodium concentration increases, a soil will lose its aggregation, eventually leading to poor water infiltration. Many more salinity and toxicity studies have been done on plants themselves. Not all crops are equally tolerant of salinity and toxicities, and in general most plants respond to salinity and toxicities in a similar fashion. If a plant is intolerant of salinity, it will be intolerant of chloride, sodium and boron. Most annual crops are less sensitive to salts than tree crops and woody perennials, although symptoms can appear on any crop if concentrations are high enough. The reason for greater sensitivity for perennial crops is that the tree is sitting in the ground absorbing salts for a longer period than the lettuce plant that is harvested 3 months after planting. Furthermore, deciduous trees like walnut shed their leaves each winter, so they can handle salinity better than evergreens like citrus and avocado.
To manage salinity and toxicities, water management is the key. Depending on water quality, an excess of water will be applied to the soil to leach the previously applied salts away from the root zone. The poorer the water quality, the more excess water is applied.
Selecting a less sensitive crop is also an alternative when dealing with poor water quality. Some barley varieties can handle salinity similar to ocean water. Barley nets a grower $400 an acre, avocados $9,000 and $25,000 if the market is right for strawberries. Avocados are salt sensitive, so are strawberries and lemons and cherimoyas and star fruit and blueberries and raspberries and mandarins and nursery crops. We grow these because with our climate, very few other places can grow them and they return enough money for a grower to stay in business in an area where land, water and labor are expensive. We really don't have much in "alternative crops" to grow here.