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Nation’s fruit basket gets its share from Oregon

Wednesday, May 20, 2015   (0 Comments)
Posted by: Elizabeth Peters
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Statistics show Oregon is among the leading producers of many fruit & nut crops.


The cornucopia is a symbol of abundant and nutritious fresh fruit. Oregon has its own “horn of plenty” filled with high quality tree fruit, berries, and a type of nut not grown anywhere else in the United States. National statistics show the state is a leader in production of many types of non-citrus fruits. This year, harvest is a few weeks early as those statistics turn into delicious reality.

“We produce a variety of high quality fruits and nuts that are valued in our local markets, national markets, and in export markets around the world,” says Lindsay Eng, Director of Market Access and Certification for the Oregon Department of Agriculture.

More than 225 different agricultural commodities are produced in Oregon. Many of them are fruit crops. Oregon leads the nation in production of several berry crops. But behind the numbers is the fact that the state’s climate and fertile soils– along with the skill and expertise of the growers–  produce a great tasting, high-quality food product that is enjoyed by consumers far and wide.

Seasonally, it is the berry crops that first herald the Oregon harvest season, usually in early summer. But with a mild winter and early spring, most of those berries will be ready for consumption sooner than normal. In fact, the strawberry– which traditionally kicks off Oregon’s fruit season– has already shown up in u-pick fields, farmers’ markets, and local grocery stores. It won’t be long until blueberries, blackberries, raspberries, and cherries begin to ripen and are available to the consumer, well ahead of schedule.

“Get out an start experiencing Oregon fruits right now,” advises Eng.

The US Department of Agriculture’s National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS) has published its non-citrus fruits and nuts summary for 2014. A majority of the crops detailed in the report are grown in Oregon and, in fact, some are exclusive to the state. One-hundred percent of the nation’s commercial blackberries and boysenberries come from Oregon. Marionberries, a cultivar of the blackberry, is also 100 percent Oregon.

The statistical summary shows there were 6,100 acres planted in commercial blackberries last year in Oregon, producing 44.8 million pounds with a value of nearly $43.2 million– slightly up from 2013’s production value of $42.2 million. Marionberry production last year fell to 17.1 million pounds but was still responsible for about 30 percent of the total value for blackberries .

Oregon also grows virtually all of the nation’s boysenberries with about 500 acres harvested in 2014 and a production value more than $3 million. Oregon once again leads the nation in black raspberry production value at $9.7 million– a big increase over the previous year and well ahead of second place California.

California is the clear leader in red raspberry production followed by Washington, but Oregon is the nation’s third leading producer. Oregon’s red raspberry production was down a bit to 1,100 acres and 4.4 million pounds last year, but the production value was a significant sum of $5.8 million.

One of the most iconic of crops in Oregon is the strawberry. Overall production is a mere fraction of historical highs decades ago, but the industry appears to have stabilized a bit. Oregon ranks seventh in the nation in strawberry production, but is dominated by neighboring California. Still, the 2,000 acres harvested last year was on par with 2013. More than 25 million pounds were harvested in 2014. By comparison, in 1988, Oregon had 7,800 acres in strawberry production with more than 100 million pounds harvested. Last year California had 41,500 strawberry acres producing nearly 2.2 billion pounds.

Blueberries continue to be an Oregon success story, even if the state has lost a little ground in national rankings. About 9,300 acres produced 86.1 million pounds at a value of more than $106 million. Georgia emerged as the national leader in blueberry production followed by Washington, Michigan, then Oregon.

Cranberry production on the southern Oregon coast rebounded last year with 431,000 barrels even though production value dropped to $11.5 million because of low prices. Oregon ranks fourth in cranberry production behind Wisconsin, Massachusetts, and New Jersey.

Tree fruits also did well last year. Sweet cherries are vulnerable to weather impacts, but 2014 was a decent year. The 53,700 tons of production was up from 2013, but down slightly from 2012. Unfortunately, the value of production last year dropped to $67.8 million after hitting the $80 million mark in 2013. Still, only Washington and California rank higher than Oregon in sweet cherry production.

Pears continue to be a perennial top ten Oregon agricultural commodity with 14,400 acres in pear orchards producing 215,000 tons last year, an improvement over 2013. The production value of $127 million last year is an increase from 2013. Only Washington ranks ahead of Oregon nationally in pear production with California ranked third because of its high production of the Bartlett variety– used mainly for canning. Oregon and Washington produce a variety of fresh winter pears.

Oregon apple production doesn’t come close to rivaling the Washington giant, but still accounted for 140 million pounds and a value of $45.4 million last year, ranking sixth in the nation. Oregon is number two in production of prunes and plums with 7,800 tons and a value of $3.8 million last year.

The NASS survey also captures statistics on nut production. Oregon continues to produce all of the nation’s hazelnuts. Last year’s production of 36,000 tons is down from 2013, but better than 2012. The production value of $129 million, however, was the best mark in the last three years.

All in all, Oregon agriculture continues to supply consumers from Tualatin to Tokyo with a variety of high quality fruit. Oregon may not challenge states like California in sheer volume, but it can make the case that the quality of berries, tree fruit, and nuts produced within its borders can’t be beat.

For more information, contact Bruce Pokarney at (503) 986-4559.

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