Slower start marks beginning of Florida strawberry season

12/26/2012 12:20:00 PM
Doug Ohlemeier

PLANT CITY, Fla. — Although volume didn’t begin as early as initially predicted, buyers can expect another typical year for this season’s Florida strawberry deal.

Smaller opening season volumes also kept early-season prices high.

In late November, some growers predicted an earlier-than-typical start for promotable volumes.

Crop quality problems caused by nursery transplants, however, are expected to lower yields for some growers, said Gary Wishnatzki, president and chief executive officer of Wish Farms.

That damage should be spotty and shouldn’t affect a significant percentage of the overall crop, he said in mid-December.

Wishnatzki said the crop slowed in early December.

With Wish Farms’ bloom counts and forecasting models, he said he expects promotable volumes to hit after Christmas at the very earliest and perhaps during the first week of January.

After harvesting begins in late November, Florida volume usually builds slowly in early and mid-December with promotable volumes entering the market in late December.

“The overall quality should be good out of Florida,” Wishnatzki said.

“We see no problems with the quality of the fruit. There are a few size issues in some fields with some varieties, but overall quality is good.”

With California and Florida bringing light volumes to the market in early and mid-December, Wishnatzki in mid-December characterized market supplies as tight and said he expected prices to remain strong.

In mid-December, the U.S. Department of Agriculture reported flats of eight 1-pound clamshells from central Florida selling for $24.90, compared to $24.90-26.90 in early December.

That’s similar to last season when the USDA in early December reported those same clamshells selling for $22.90-24.90.

Wishnatzki said he expects prices to remain in the $20s until larger volume begins in January.

Chris Smith, sales manager for BBI Produce Inc., Dover, said the season began on a high note.

“Quality looks outstanding,” he said in mid-December. “The weather has been great. We are very pleased.”

Smith said volume is progressing every week and that growers are actively looking at ads for chain stores to move product.

Florida growers are estimated to produce on 11,000 acres, similar to last season, said Ted Campbell, executive director of the Florida Strawberry Growers Association, Dover.

He said the deal should yield 3,500 flats per acre and produce 25 million flats, down from last year’s 27 million flats.


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