Georgia, the Blueberry State? New Fruit Takes Top Spot

Tuesday, 23 Jul 2013 06:18 PM

By Robin Farmer

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Georgia blueberries instead of Georgia peaches? Since 2005, blueberry production has surpassed the peach crop and the gap grows bigger every year, according to U.S. Department of Agriculture surveys.

"It's surprising around the country how many people don't realize Georgia grows blueberries," Joe Cornelius, chairman of the Georgia Blueberry Commission, told The Associated Press.

A good growing environment without numerous blueberry-killing frosts increased blueberries from a tiny crop to top crop, say analyst and growers.

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Since 2008, blueberries have generated more money — for example, $133 million in 2010, vs. $47 million for peaches, according to University of Georgia data reported by The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. Peach sales have stayed fairly stagnant while blueberry sales are five times what they were in 2003.

Perhaps not widely known, Georgia is not the top U. S. peach producer. California is, followed by South Carolina.

The diminutive berry’s health benefits have propelled demand among consumers clamoring for their antioxidant qualities. Average prices are up, jumping by 86 cents a pound from 1993 to 2012.

Still, proponents of the blueberry are realistic about its appeal over its fuzzy cousin. So there is no need to change license plates or street names.

"I don't foresee Georgia changing to the blueberry state," Cornelius, a farmer who grows about 170 acres of the tiny berry, told the AP.

Ken Bernhardt, a marketing professor at Georgia State University, agrees.

"If we're No. 1 in peoples' minds, that's what counts. And that's the brand we should keep," he told the AJC. "Perception is reality."

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