In a little more than 10 years, Sweet Georgia Blues have become a major player in the global blueberry market. This season’s crop is expected to produce as much as 70 million pounds of blueberries from nearly 20,000 acres of orchards.
Thanks to the reported health benefits of blueberries and continued research, there has been an explosion of blueberry acreage in Georgia — an increase of 15% or more each year.
Georgia’s blueberry crop is growing so quickly it has been difficult for federal observers to keep pace. While the USDA reports 14,000 acres of Georgia Blueberries, the actual amount is probably closer to 20,000, notes Joe Cornelius, chairman of the Georgia Blueberry Commission.
“The USDA goes off of what the county Extension agents turn in, so it’s always two to four years behind,” adds Cornelius. “There are dirt roads that were all timber and row crops a few years ago and now there are 10 to 20 acres of blueberries nobody knew about.”
Cornelius anticipates that Georgia’s total blueberry crop could increase to 24,000 to 26,000 acres within the next few years.
The global marketplace will also help determine the future of Georgia Blueberries. While the state’s harvesting season typically lasts from mid April through the end of July, competing states such as Michigan, New Jersey, Florida, and countries such as Chile have crept into the growing window.
In 2009, the Georgia Department of Agriculture formed the Georgia Blueberry Commission as a program to support research, education, and promotion on behalf of the state’s growers. Georgia claims the longest season in the U.S. lasting from mid-April through the end of July to enjoy fresh Georgia Blueberries — “Sweet Georgia Blues.” For more information and background on Georgia Blueberries, log onto www.GeorgiaBlueberries.org.