Can't find fresh blueberries in the grocery store? You're not alone, and here's why

Mackensy Lunsford
Asheville Citizen Times
Blueberries

ASHEVILLE - If you're looking for blueberries in the produce aisle and coming up short, as some readers have mentioned, you aren't alone.

The pandemic has created a number of blips in the food chain. Meat plant bottlenecks from a combination of demand and labor issues have spurred sporadic beef shortages and, most recently, pricey and hard-to-find chicken wings

Ingles dietitian Leah McGrath said produce managers confirmed the supply of fresh blueberries is "tight." You can blame the pandemic-caused labor shortage for this one, too.

According to Fresh Plaza Magazine, which covers global produce issues, a labor shortage in Chile impacted the supply of blueberries to the United State East Coast. Logistical issues involving shipping have also been an issue across the country.

A water drop forms on a blueberry after a storm at Craggy Flats Bald off the Blue Ridge Parkway on Aug. 19, 2020.

Labor issues have become a worldwide problem across many industries and have been blamed for more than $52 million in crop loss since December in New South Wales alone, ABC Rural reported. Blueberry growers were particularly impacted, putting pressure on the global supply.

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Meanwhile, blueberries are in high demand for healthy home snacking. Still, McGrath said there's no reason to fear a long-term shortage; local blueberries will arrive in full force soon enough.

Appalachian Sustainable Agriculture Project communications coordinator Sarah Hart said local blueberries should hit markets in June.

"I have market records with them showing up the first week of June in 2019 (from) Flying Cloud Farm, Ivy Creek Family Farm, Gibson Berry Farm," she said. "In 2020 and 2018, we didn't see them until closer to the 20th of June." 

Strawberries should be coming in the next week or so, she added.

"I know Bear Necessities Farm harvested some last week, but didn't have enough to bring to market quite yet," she said. "Farms in the far west counties and South Carolina are already picking lots of strawberries, so you might see these through some of the local distributors. "

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For now, stick to frozen blueberries if you can't find fresh, or try something new. This is, unfortunately, a time for exercising greater flexibility when it comes to in-demand food.

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Mackensy Lunsford has lived in Asheville for more than 20 years, and has been a staff writer for the Asheville Citizen Times since 2012. Lunsford is a former professional line cook and one-time restaurant owner.

Reach me:  mlunsford@citizentimes.com.

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