Cool winter weather caused a slow start for California’s strawberry season, but as temperatures begin to rise, growers have set out to make up for lost time.
click image to zoomTom BurfieldWalt Maitoza (left), vice president of operations, and Angel Ibarra, Santa Maria Valley area manager for Naturipe Berry Growers, Salinas, Calif., check on the progress of the company’s 1975 strawberry variety in a Santa Maria field March 13. The company expects good volume from the area between Easter and Mother’s Day.Shippers expect to have ample berries for Easter promotions, and they say there should be plenty of the fruit on hand from all the southern districts through Mother’s Day (May 12), when Oxnard starts to wind down.
The Watsonville/Salinas district should have significant volume by sometime in May.
As of March 9, the state’s growers had shipped 9.07 million trays, according to the Watsonville-based California Strawberry Commission. That’s down from 11.81 million trays for the same period in 2012.
Trays of eight 1-pound clamshell containers of strawberries from the Oxnard and Santa Maria districts were selling for mostly $13-14 f.o.b. March 13, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
The Oxnard district is expected to hit its peak just after Easter (March 31), said Russ Widerburg, sales manager for Boskovich Farms Inc.
Thanks to recent good weather, plenty of berries should be on hand for the holiday, added Don Hobson, vice president of sales and marketing.
The Santa Maria district kicked off in late February for some shippers, including Salinas-based Red Blossom Sales Inc.
Craig Casca, vice president and director of sales, said he expected light volume out of that region by the end of March.
“Fruit looks fantastic and tastes even better,” he said.
The California season also was progressing well for Naples, Fla.-based Naturipe Farms LLC.
“Overall, all of our districts are looking good,” said Walt Maitoza, vice president of operations for Salinas-based Naturipe Berry Growers.
Jose Corona, president of Corona Marketing in Santa Maria, hopes to see a benefit from the late start.
“We planted a little bit later in the season, so we’re hoping to get that late market,” he said.