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Agricultural Marketing Resource Center

Blackberries

BlackberriesBy Malinda Geisler, content specialist, Ag Marketing Resource Center, Iowa State University.

Revised June 2012 by Kimberly L. Morgan, Assistant Professor, Mississippi State University, morgan@agecon.msstate.edu.


 

Overview

Blackberries and raspberries are generally referred to as caneberries, which includes all berries that grow on a cane, including marionberries and boysenberries. Also described as “bramble” plants, both blackberry and raspberry species derive from the genus Rubus. All caneberries have perennial crown and root systems, and produce biennial shoots that bear fruit every other year.

Blackberries are native to several continents, including Asia, Europe, and North and South America, and documented human consumption was recorded more than 2,000 years ago. People have used the blackberry plant as a hedge to protect property, for medicinal uses and as a source of healthy consumption. Initial U.S. commercial blackberry production originated in the Pacific Northwest region in 1860, using plants cultivated from European domesticated species.

Nearly all (90%) of blackberries are consumed in the frozen product form, given the delicate nature and limited shelf life of this large fresh fruit. Along with blueberries, boysenberries and tart cherries, blackberries have produced the largest increases in non-citrus crop value and grower prices in recent years. In 2011, U.S. blackberry production was valued at $43.2 million, up from $30.8 million on 2009.

Production

Blackberries are classified based on growth habit. There are erect, semi-erect and trailing varieties, and both thorny and thornless plant cultivars. The erect varieties do not need trellised if they are properly pruned. Semi-erect and trailing blackberries require extensive trellising and routine pruning. Well-managed blackberries can remain productive for more than 15 years, thriving in well-drained loose soil in cold and warm climates.

Oregon is the predominant geographic source of cultivated U.S. blackberry production. In 2011, 53.4 million pounds of blackberries were produced on 7,300 acres. Average blackberry yields per acre were 7,730 pounds in 2009, dropping off slightly to 7,280 pounds per acre in 2011. In 2011, 4.03 million pounds were sold as fresh berries and the remaining 49.2 million sold as processed product.

Blackberries frozen for commercial packs have remained relatively consistent around 23 million pounds, from 1980 through 2006, with volumes ranging from a 1984 low of 11.1 million pounds to a high of 31.5 million pounds in 1992.

According to the 2008 Organic Production Survey, the United States had 348 farms certified to grow organic blackberries and dewberries on 492 acres. A total of 332 organic blackberry and dewberry farms harvested 1.69 million pounds and reported crop values totaling $4.57 million in 2008.

Exports/Imports

In 2010, the U.S. imported 95.7 million pounds of fresh blackberries and 21.1 million pounds of frozen product. Relative to 2006 U.S. blackberry import volumes for fresh and frozen of 29.6 million pounds and 16.5 million pounds, respectively, it is clear that U.S. consumption levels of blackberries, especially fresh, are trending upwards. The 2010 U.S. imported fresh blackberries were valued at $147.3 million, almost three times the 2006 fresh imported value at just $58.8 million. In contrast, 2006 and 2010 imported frozen blackberry values were very similar, totaling $10.2 million and $10.8 million, respectively, which is most likely due to high percentage of U.S. production that is frozen and stored. Mexico provided nearly all U.S. imported fresh blackberry volumes, representing a four-year annual average 95.5 percent share from 2008 to 2011. Chile dominated U.S. imports of frozen blackberries, accounting for a four-year annual average market share of 77.9 percent from 2008-2011.

Currently, U.S. blackberry export data is not available.

Demand

Grower prices for fresh and processed U.S. blackberries averaged $1.56 per pound and $0.75 per pound, respectively. Average blackberry grower prices for both fresh and processed rose from $0.562 in 2009 to $0.812 in 2011. Per capita consumption of frozen blackberries was 0.09 pounds in 2009, with the highest per capita consumption level of 0.13 pounds reached in 1988.

From June 2010 through June 2012, weighted average retail prices for a 5.6-6.0 ounce package of fresh conventional and organic blackberries were approximately $2.56 per pound and $3.25 per pound, respectively. Due in part to large volumes of imports primarily from Mexico and the varied geographic production regions in the United States, fresh blackberries are available in retail stores year-round.

2012 Outlook

The soaring popularity of fruit such as blackberries in American diets combined with improvements in cultivars, management practices and refrigerated transportation innovations have encouraged growers worldwide to invest heavily in new blackberry plantings. Estimates of projected increases in blackberry plantings range from 20 percent to 33 percent in the United States and Guatemala, up to 76 percent and 117 percent in Chile and Mexico by the year 2015, with total acreage expected to approach 30,000 in these four countries alone.

In 2011 and 2012, blackberry industry growers and members were considering adoption of a federal research and promotion order that would collect assessments, which could be used to educate the public about the health benefits of blackberries. The growing locavore movement could also prove a valuable driver of increased blackberry consumption, as the relatively short shelf life and delicate handling requirements of the mature fruit are well-suited to direct-to-consumer marketing and sales.

Similarly to other berries, wholesale and retail fresh blackberry buyers are interested in larger, sweeter, standardized blackberry varieties, improved packaging, post-harvest handling education and access to consistent supplies available year-round.


Sources

Fruit and Tree Nut Outlook, Economic Research Service (ERS), USDA.

Fruit and Tree Nut Yearbook Spreadsheet Files, ERS, USDA.

Noncitrus Fruits and Nuts, National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS), USDA.

U.S. Per Capita Food Availability, ERS, USDA.

Fruit and Vegetable Market News, USDA Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS).

2008 Organic Production Survey, NASS, The Census of Agriculture, USDA, 2010.

Market Outlook for Blackberry Production in the Southeast. By C. Safley. Presented at the Blackberry Conference 2009 SE Regional Fruit & Vegetable Conference, Savannah, Georgia, 2009.


Marketing

  • North American Raspberry & Blackberry Association - This professional association is dedicated to the advancement of the raspberry and blackberry industries. Members are growers, researchers, Extension workers, nurseries, suppliers, marketers and others associated with the raspberry and blackberry industry. They have members in 34 states.
  • Oregon Raspberry & Blackberry Commission - This commission promotes raspberries, blackberries and other caneberries. The commission consists of nine members: six growers, two packers and one public member. The ORBC has over 200 growers in Oregon.

Production

  • 2008 Kentucky Blackberry Cost and Return Estimates. By M. Ernst and T. Woods, Cooperative Extension Service ID-149, University of Kentucky, 2008 - This online blackberry budget provides estimates for all aspects of blackberry production, harvest and marketing.
  • Berries, Cornell Fruit Website, Cornell University - This website provides links to berry resources covering all aspects of organic and traditional production and marketing commercially and locally. Articles include Small Fruit Cultural Pest Management, High Tunnel Raspberries and Blackberries, New York Berry News (a monthly newsletter)as well as links to related resources and publications.
  • Blackberries – 2010 Fruit and Nut Planning Budgets, Department of Agricultural Economics, Mississippi State University, Budget Report 2010-01, 2010.
  • Blackberry and Raspberry Growers Information Portal, North Carolina State University - N.C. MarketReady developed the Blackberry & Raspberry Growers Information Portal to bring together on one website all the resources pertaining to the production, management and marketing of blackberries and raspberries, often referred to collectively as “brambles,” “brambleberries” or “bramble fruits.” This site includes feature articles about growers, industry representatives sharing their own experiences, resources specific to start-up and convenient weather/climate links.
  • Blackberry Packaging and Produce Auction Prices. By M. Ernst and T. Woods, New Crop Opportunities Center, College of Agriculture, University of Kentucky, 2000 – The authors conducted a market research study to examine price sensitivity for blackberry packaging in a produce auction market. Overall there were no significant differences between types of blackberry packaging.
  • Brambles – Production Management and Marketing. By R.C. Funt, M.A. Ellis, R. Williams, D. Doohan, J.C. Scheerens and C. Welty, Extension Bulleting 782-99, Ohio State University - The authors reviewed the management, pests and marketing of blackberries and raspberries. New plants, cultural practices and irrigation methods all make for improved management systems.
  • Fresh Market Caneberry Production Manual, University of California, 2012 - Designed specifically for fresh market growers, this manual is the perfect field reference for growing blackberries and raspberries in the western United States.
  • Growing Blackberries & Raspberries in Kentucky. By R.T. Jones and J.G. Strong, Cooperative Extension Service HO-15, University of Kentucky, 2005 - This online guide covers site selection, marketing, disease and pests for commercial raspberry and blackberry production.
  • Organic Blackberries and Raspberries. Reviewed by J. Strang and M. Williams, Cooperative Extension Service, University of Kentucky, 2010 - Includes information on marketing, market outlook, and production and economic considerations related to organic blackberry production in Kentucky.
  • Organic Culture of Bramble Fruits: Horticulture Production Guide. By  G.L. Kuepper, H. Born and J. Bachman,  National Center for Appropriate Technology (NCAT), Appropriate Technology Transfer for Rural America (ATTRA), 2003 - This publication addresses the production and marketing of organic blackberries and raspberries. It focuses on organic practices for blackberry and raspberry production. Included are discussions of site selection and preparation; fertility; weed, disease and insect management; greenhouse production of raspberries; and economics and marketing. Electronic and printed resources are provided.
  • Raspberry & Blackberry Production Guide for the Northeast, Midwest and Eastern Canada. Edited by L. Bushway, M. Pritts and D. Handley, Natural Resource, Agriculture and Engineering Service, 2008 - This for-purchase (free online viewing option available) guide is intended as a comprehensive resource for both novice and experienced growers as well as crop advisors and educators. There are descriptions of more than 70 cultivars. Field production, high tunnel production and greenhouse production are reviewed. Detailed information is included on planning and managing irrigation and chemigation systems. This publication is also intended to help raspberry and blackberry growers plan and implement production and marketing decisions. Pest management chapters emphasize cultural controls.
  • Southern Region Small Fruit Consortium – Brambles - This website contains newsletters and information related to southeastern production, marketing, pest information of brambles (including blackberries) and links to regional experts. A link to a unique Blackberry Diagnostic Tool enables growers and managers to identify disease symptoms of the canes, leaves, flowers and fruit, or roots and crown.

Business/Case Studies

  • Backyard Berry Plants, Nashville, Indiana – This family farm specializes in producing and selling certified organically grown, potted blackberry, blueberry, raspberry and strawberry plants that are shipped directly to homeowners and gardeners. The website highlights their product features as well as planting guides and plant care information.
  • Enoch’s Berry Farm, Fouke, Arkansas – This family farm continues to maintain three acres of blackberries and three acres of blueberries as a you-pick operation. The farm also sells plants and root cuttings. Enoch’s Berry Farm has been a licensed propagator of the University of Arkansas blackberries since the first patents were introduced in 1985.
  • Hurst’s Berry Farm, Sheridan, Oregon -  This farm is the leading fresh berry shipper in the Northwest. Hursts Berry Farm includes 450 acres of production in Michoacan, Jalisco and Colima, Mexico, which allows them to be a year-round source of fresh blackberries. The operation, which specializes in the wholesale distribution of fresh berries, packs and ships throughout the United States and the world.
  • Justus Orchard, Henderson, North Carolina – The Justus family represents more than four generations working on their farm, featuring we-pick and you-pick apples, blackberries, pumpkins and peaches. They also offer farm and orchard tours, gift box shipments and a wide variety of juices, seasonal fruits and vegetables, canned and baked goods for sale to the public.
  • Oregon Berry Packing Company, Hillsboro, Oregon – Since 1948, this family-owned business has supplied fresh and frozen blueberries, raspberries, blackberries and black raspberries to premium wholesale distributors worldwide.

Links checked September 2013.

 

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