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California strawberries looking for strong Q4

By
Tim Linden

With about three-quarters of its annual volume already picked and packed, and running a bit behind 2020 numbers, the California strawberry industry is expecting a strong final quarter allowing volume to surpass last year’s total.

Through the week ended Aug. 21, California had sent close to 150 million trays of fruit to market, which represents about a 4.5 percent decline from the previous year. By the end of the third week of 2020, California’s strawberry growers had marketed more than 157 million trays of fruit on the way to a crop that exceeded 200 million trays.

California Strawberry Commission Marketing Specialist Jessica Lara told The Produce News on Aug. 23 that total weekly volume in September is expected to be strong with an average of 5.2 million trays per week. That is almost a million more trays per week than during September of 2020 and would go a long way toward making up the current year-over-year deficit of 7 million trays.

In fact, Lara said total volume in 2021 is expected to be slightly higher than 2020. “Both organic and conventional should slowly drop in late September but there should be plenty of strawberries for consumers to enjoy throughout the year,” she said, noting that organics represent about 12 percent of total volume.

Anthony Gallino, vice president of sales for Bobalu Berries in Oxnard, CA, told The Produce News on Aug. 23 that California’s Oxnard district was past its peak for its spring crop with Bobalu waiting to transition to the fall crop, which represents the summer plantings. He anticipated that the company’s supplies would be back on track by the second week of September. He said total strawberry supplies would continue to be solid through September and into October from that Ventura County region.

He added that the market was strengthening as it was moving above $15 per tray in late August. Gallino anticipated a good September and October market, which is typically the case.

Dan Crowley, vice president of sales and marketing for Well-Pict Inc., based in Watsonville, CA, made the same observations on that same day. He said Well-Pict’s summer volume from Watsonville and the Salinas Valley were in decline but soon its fall production from Oxnard would kick-in.

Speaking of the drop in volume so far this season, Crowley said weather is to blame with some extreme temperatures cutting into weekly volume on a sporadic basis. He didn’t say that the company had left any berries in the field, but did note that securing  harvesting workers has been difficult all year. Crowley said the firm has had less than a full crew the entire season.

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December 2, 2021

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