California strawberry exports still growing

05/24/2011 11:47:00 AM
Ryan Kane


California strawberry exports still growing

Mike Hornick

Mark Murai, president of the California Strawberry Commission, speaks on exports at the Monterey Bay International Trade Association luncheon in Monterey, Calif.

MONTEREY, Calif. — California strawberry exports rose in value about 8%, to about $341 million, in 2010.

That’s up from $316 million the prior year, said Mark Murai, president of the California Strawberry Commission. Volume was 276 million pounds for fresh and frozen, up from 273 million. Fresh accounted for close to 90% of the production.

Murai went over the numbers as he and representatives of other industries gathered to talk exports at the Monterey Bay International Trade Association luncheon May 18. Congressman Sam Farr, D-Carmel, reports annually on the National Export Initiative at the event, cosponsored by the Monterey County Business Council.

More than 50 people attended.

Exports accounted for 23% of the state’s strawberry production. Growth has been continuous; in 2005, for example, the value was $198 million. A variety of factors contributed to the rise, Murai said.

Among them, he said, was the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Market Access program.

“That has helped our growers expand export market opportunities,” he said. “Growers put up their money and get matching funds from the USDA to help promote their strawberries in all these countries.”

He also credited Farr for helping with a pilot program created to address inspection requirements for strawberries bound for Australia.

“This program brings the Australian customs inspectors to California — they live here — so that shipments can be checked for insects or weed seeds, things Australia doesn’t want us to bring in,” Murai said. “These inspections, when done in Australia, are devastating to us if we ship strawberries and they’re found positive. The whole load has to be destroyed. By bringing customs inspection here to California, it really cuts down on our losses.”

Even with the upward trend in exports of the last several years, there’s still room for growth, Murai said.

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