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Blueberry growers seeing green

January 25, 2008 12:18:02 PM PST
The numbers are in and the New Jersey Department of Agriculture says it was a banner year for the blueberry.

New Jersey's blueberry crop reached an all-time high in 2007 for production and value of production, according to the National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS) of the United States Department of Agriculture.

NASS released the 2007 New Jersey blueberry production figures this week, which showed there were 54 million pounds of blueberries produced at a value of $90.2 million last year. In 2006, the value of the blueberry crop set a previous record of $83 million.

"The demand for blueberries is increasing, not only for their good taste and versatility, but due to the reported health benefits of eating them," said New Jersey Secretary of Agriculture Charles M. Kuperus. "We expect a continued consumer interest in blueberries and for our blueberry farms to keep pace with the demand."

Prices farmers received for their blueberries also increased last year. The average price per pound was $1.67, up from $1.61 in 2006 and $1.23 in 2005.

Blueberry growers reported the production increases were due to warm and dry spring weather last year that was conducive to pollination. Also, the newer Duke variety, which produces high yields, is reaching its peak of production.

Despite the record-setting year, New Jersey still ranks second in the nation in blueberry production behind Michigan. In 2007, Michigan farmers produced 93 million pounds of blueberries, valued at $165 million.

Like blueberry farmers, cranberry growers also benefited from favorable weather conditions that produced good bloom and pollination. New Jersey's cranberry crop increased by 9 percent, with 531,000 barrels produced. That was up from the 2006 crop of 485,000 barrels. Nationally, cranberry production was down 7 percent last year.

Cranberry producers in the Garden State realized a $20.7 million value of production in 2007, compared to $17.1 million in 2006.

New Jersey ranked third in the nation in total production of cranberries, behind Wisconsin and Massachusetts.

The evidence is mounting as to the health benefits of blueberries and cranberries. United States Department of Agriculture researchers ranked blueberries and cranberries among the top antioxidant-rich foods. Antioxidants help neutralize harmful by-products of metabolism called "free radicals" that are associated with cancer and other age related diseases.


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