Rain delays harvest, but growers expect good quality berries - The Packer

Rain delays harvest, but growers expect good quality berries

05/04/2012 12:39:00 PM
Susie Cable

Following a bout with nasty spring storms, berry crops were looking good in late April, marketers said.

“It’s been a wild ride in California,” said Doug Perkins, managing director, HBF International LLC, McMinnville, Ore. “We have seen hail, cold temperatures, rain and very warm temperatures.”

Cindy Jewell, marketing director, California Giant Berry Farms, Watsonville, Calif., said on April 25 that it was raining and more wet weather was forecast.

The rain temporarily slowed harvesting, but marketers expect good quality berries and enough supplies for Mother’s Day retail promotions.

Michelle Deleissegues, marketing director for Red Blossom Farms, Los Olivos, Calif., said all strawberry districts in California — Oxnard, Santa Maria and Salinas — received rain during the last week of April, which slowed harvest. The sun was shining on April 27, though, and Deleissegues said she expected the first week of May to be a good week.

In late April, Oxnard strawberry production was peaking and fruit quality was excellent, Deleissegues said.

Santa Maria production was increasing and expected to peak beginning May 1, and Salinas strawberry crops were just getting started and quality looked good, she said on April 27.

Red Blossom’s strawberry crops were hit by rainstorms and hail in April, Deleissegues said. In mid-April, the company was cleaning up crops by picking the damaged berries.

Generally, when berry crops get too much rain, the berries, not the plants, are damaged. The damaged berries have to be picked, which leads to a gap in supply, Jewell said.

“It doesn’t affect long-term production or later berries,” she said. “It’s warming up in Southern California, and the plants and fruit will rebound quickly.”

Jewell said California Giant expects a good overall season. Each growing region has its own peak in production, but generally California strawberries peak from about May through June, she said.

Deleissegues also said she’s optimistic about the season despite unpredictable weather this spring. She said she expects California strawberry volume to be up and demand to be strong.

Berry marketers declined to discuss their predictions for this season’s pricing, but prices in late April were slightly higher than at the same time last year.

On May 2, flats of eight 1-pound lidded containers of large strawberries from Santa Maria, Calif., were priced at $8-10 at the Los Angeles terminal market, the U.S. Department of Agriculture reported. Prices were occasionally higher, the USDA reported.

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