Georgia may be the Peach State, but blueberries have slowly risen to become the state’s top fruit crop.
The blueberry industry in Georgia now accounts for nearly $350 million of economic activity, while peaches make up just under $85 million. Analysts attribute the blueberry’s rise to a combination of increasing consumer demand and Georgia’s ideal growing conditions — long hot summers and mild winters, in particular.
“The demand for blueberries has always been higher than the supply,” explained Greg Fonsah, a professor in UGA’s College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences.
“The excess demand was instrumental in the rapid expansion and productivity of the blueberry industry. This positive consumer demand trend has consistently increased despite multifaceted structural, institutional, policy, weather and natural disaster problems plaguing the industry.” At least 14 states produce blueberries, according to the Agricultural Marketing Resource Center.
In 2021, the U.S. “produced and utilized 660 million pounds of cultivated blueberries,” with 4.15 million pounds coming from Georgia. Blueberries have grown in popularity, with many consumers citing their “superfood” status.
They’re packed with nutrients and are one of the top sources of antioxidants. The benefits of eating blueberries include possibly lowering blood pressure, improving cardiovascular health and enhancing cognitive abilities.
“Previous studies have indicated that people who regularly eat blueberries have a reduced risk of developing conditions including Type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease,” Sci News reported.
“This may be because blueberries are high in naturally occurring compounds called anthocyanins, which are the flavonoids responsible for the red and blue color in fruits.”