WATSONVILLE, Calif. — Blackberry production is winding down on California’s Central Coast, but raspberries could go through the end of October.
John Navarro, president of Watsonville-based Chapala Berry Farms, said he’ll take raspberries as close to Halloween as weather permits. He’s growing the Josephine and Magana varieties for California Giant Berry Farms.
Blackberries here tail off by the end of September and are done by mid-October as the Mexican deal takes over.
Pricing on blackberries has been consistent through the California deal, Navarro said, while raspberries were up marginally over last year.
“Raspberries have been tougher. It’s a bit more delicate fruit,” he said. “But there’s been better movement. You have fewer rejections. Obviously the quality of the fruit is better. It holds up better when shipped. You get better returns when everything makes it.”
Flats of a dozen 6-ounce raspberry cups out of Watsonville and Salinas cost $14 to $16 on Sept. 17, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Year-ago prices were about the same.
Blackberry flats were going for $20 to $22, also roughly equal to year-ago prices.
Chapala Berry Farms also sources blackberries for California Giant. The grower-shipper will switch to Mexico supply in October, according to Pete Cruz, quality assurance specialist for California Giant.
The label’s raspberries will continue to be sourced in California — in Santa Maria and Oxnard.
Bush berry prices can shoot up to the $30 range in October during the transition between deals, Cruz said.
Navarro said he’s had to battle labor shortages of up to 15% to bring his fruit to market.
“Other growers have probably been higher than that, which may affect their plantings,” he said. “They may cut back for fear that if next year they’re in the same position, they may not be able to harvest in time. Once you’re behind, you have a lot of problems.”