PLANT CITY, Fla. — Florida’s strawberry buyers should expect earlier promotable volumes.
“Volume is much higher than normal,” said Gary Wishnatzki, president and chief executive officer, on Dec. 5, noting his company, Wish Farms, began harvesting the radiance variety Nov. 10-15.
“Between our increased acreage and the growing season, we are harvesting 10 times more than we had this time last year.”
Doug OhlemeierPlant City. Fla.-based Astin Strawberry Exchange LLC salesmen Neal Palmatier (from left), Shawn Pollard and J.R. Pierce examine early season strawberries in a field south of Plant City in early December.While Wish Farms harvested 11,000 flats by early December last season, Wishnatzki said this season is seeing the grower-shipper pack 111,000 flats by early December.
Though Wishnatzki said he and his growers are packing enough volume for a retailer to conduct small promotions, he said he expects volume to build through December.
Keith Mixon, president of SunnyRidge Farm-Dole, Winter Haven, agreed.
“On an industry scale, the market doesn’t have that much volume out there,” he said in early December. “We are looking to fill shelves and service customers. This is a good time to take care of our customers’ needs.”
Astin Strawberry Exchange LLC started its harvesting Nov. 21, a few days earlier than its normal start.
Shawn Pollard, salesman, called fruit quality high and said he expects Astin to bring promotable volume to the market earlier than normal.
“Promotable volume should hit the week of Dec. 18-19,” Pollard said in early December. “Leading into Christmas, we should have good supplies.”
Doug OhlemeierFlorida's strawberry season is bringing higher volumes to the market. Growers also began harvesting a couple of weeks earlier than usual.Weather permitting, Astin plans to harvest strong volumes of all major varieties by Dec. 20, a little earlier than the deal’s typical late December and early January start, Pollard said.
Wishnatzki and Steve Machell, sales manager for Dover-based Gulf Coast Produce Inc., characterized opening season prices as strong.
On Dec. 5, Wishnatzki quoted flats of eight 1-pound clamshells from central Florida selling for $24.90-26.90, the price the U.S. Department of Agriculture reported in late November.
By Dec. 5, the USDA reported those same clamshells from central Florida selling for $22.90-24.90, with prices occasionally lower.
That’s a little lower than last season in early- to mid- December when California weather problems helped increase Florida’s opening season prices to $26.90-28.90 for the eight 1-pound clamshells.
Gulf Coast, which early pickings Nov. 14, started increasing its volume in early December. Machell said the grower-shipper harvested up to 7,000 flats in late November and expected production to gradually increase.
“We should hit some decent volume Dec. 12 and the week of Dec. 19,” Machell said in early December. “We should have some nice fruit coming then.”
Ted Campbell, executive director of the Florida Strawberry Growers Association, Dover, said he expects growers to plant more than 10,000 acres this season, up from the 9,500 acres they planted last season.
That acreage should produce up to 27 million flats, higher than last year’s 23.7 million flats, he said.
“Everything I see has been positive so far,” Campbell said in early December. “Some cold snaps we had may have slowed the maturity by a hair, but gives the berries more flavor and can help the color-up.”
Florida volume typically runs through late March with smaller volumes shipped into mid-April.