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2015 Cost Estimates of Establishing and Producing Organic Highbush Blueberries in Eastern Washington

2015 Cost Estimates of Establishing and Producing Organic Highbush Blueberries in Eastern Washington

Suzette Galinato, Research Associate, IMPACT Center, School of Economic Sciences, Washington State University, Pullman, WA, R. Karina Gallardo, Associate Professor and Extension Specialist, School of Economic Sciences, Center for Precision and Automated Agricultural Systems, Washington State University Puyallup Research and Extension Center, Puyallup, WA, Yeon Hong, Graduate Research Assistant, School of Economic Sciences, Washington State University, Pullman, WA
If you’re thinking of producing organic highbush blueberries in Washington State, this publication can be a very valuable resource. Designed to enable growers to estimate costs of equipment, materials, supplies, and labor as well as ranges of price and yield, this publication helps evaluate the feasibility and profitability of producing organic highbush blueberries.
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Preface

The results presented in this publication serve as a general guide for evaluating the feasibility of producing organic blueberries in eastern Washington as of 2015. This publication is not intended to be a definitive guide to production practices, but it is helpful in estimating the physical and financial requirements of comparable plantings. Specific assumptions were adopted for this study, but these assumptions may not fit every situation since production costs and returns vary across farm operations, depending on the following factors:

  • Capital, labor, and natural resources
  • Crop yields
  • Cultivar (‘Duke’ was assumed for this study)
  • Type and size of machinery, irrigation, and frost control systems
  • Input prices
  • Cultural practices
  • Organic blueberry prices
  • Size of the farm operation
  • Management skills

Cost estimations in the enterprise budget also vary depending on their intended use. To avoid drawing unwarranted conclusions for any particular field or grower operation, readers must closely examine the assumptions made in this guide, and then adjust the costs, returns, or both as appropriate for their own operation.

Organic Blueberry Production in Washington State

The total certified organic highbush blueberry (Vaccinium corymbosum) acreage in Washington State increased from 599 acres in 2009 to 1,540 acres in 2014—a 157% increase over the six-year period (Brady et al. 2015; DeVetter et al. 2015). Organic blueberry production increased from 3 million pounds to 18.5 million pounds between 2009 and 2013 (DeVetter et al., 2015). The share of organic blueberries in the total volume of blueberries produced in the state was 23% in 2013 (DeVetter et al. 2015). In 2014, retail price premiums for fresh organic blueberries in Washington ranged from 21% to 50% over the price of non-organic blueberries depending on the package size, and shipping point premiums were 35% higher than those of non-organic blueberries (Cook et al. 2015).

Organic blueberry production is located in Skagit, Whatcom, and Snohomish Counties in western Washington, and in

Benton, Walla Walla, Grant, and Franklin Counties in eastern Washington (Brady et al. 2015; DeVetter et al. 2015). In 2009, there were more certified organic blueberry acres in western Washington than in eastern Washington: 368 acres versus 231 acres. However, since 2010, organic blueberry farms have been concentrated in eastern Washington. Certified organic blueberry acreage in this region increased from 530 acres to 1,110 acres between 2010 and 2013 (Brady et al. 2015; Cook et al. 2015). Large plantings in eastern Washington have been attributed to ideal growing conditions in terms of weather, soil fertility, and low insect pressure (Milkovich 2012). Western Washington has a mild, humid climate whereas eastern Washington’s climate is semi-arid. This climate difference leads to fewer disease and pest problems in the eastern production regions, which is a contributing factor in the higher average blueberry yields in eastern Washington than in western Washington. The favorable climate and absence of major pests and diseases are also the primary reasons that organic blueberry production is gaining popularity in eastern Washington (DeVetter et al. 2015).

Study Objectives

This publication is designed to enable growers to estimate: (1) the costs of equipment, materials, supplies, and labor required for establishing and producing organic blueberries for the fresh and processing markets and (2) the breakeven returns at which organic blueberry production would be a profitable enterprise.

The primary use of this report is to identify inputs, costs, and yields considered to be typical of a well-managed organic blueberry operation. This publication does not necessarily represent any particular operation and is not intended to be a definitive guide to production practices. However, it describes current industry trends and, as such, can be helpful in estimating the physical and financial requirements of comparable plantings.

Information Sources

The data used in this study were gathered from experienced organic blueberry growers in eastern Washington, validated by WSU Extension educators and industry representatives. Their production practices and input requirements form the baseline assumptions that were used to develop the enterprise budget. Additionally, the data represent what these growers anticipate over a blueberry’s productive life, if no unforeseen failures occur. Given that many factors affect production costs and returns, individual growers can use the Excel Workbook provided to estimate their own costs and returns.

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