Strawberries plentiful for Easter

03/21/2014 11:44:00 AM
Andy Nelson

Pamela RiemenschneiderWith Easter on the late side this year, supplies of California strawberries should be abundant, but asparagus volumes could be down.

After the cold, snowy winter in much of the U.S., consumers should be more than ready to eat strawberries and other fresh spring produce this Easter, said Cindy Jewell, marketing director for Watsonville, Calif.-based California Giant Inc.

That should be especially true this year, as Easter falls relatively late, on April 20.

If current weather conditions in California growing regions continue, Cal Giant should have abundant volumes of high-quality fruit for holiday promotions, Jewell said.

“If we continue to get no rain, I think we’re going to have plenty,” she said.

No rain was in forecasts as of March 19, Jewell said.

Because of the late date this year, all three California growing regions should be in full production by Easter, and holiday volumes could reach 6 million to 7 million trays per week, said Chris Christian, vice president of marketing for the Watsonville-based California Strawberry Commission.

“We’re expecting strong demand and outstanding volumes,” she said. “There will be lots of opportunities for promotions.”

In addition to the lack of rain, cool nights have helped create excellent growing conditions this year, Christie said. She expected a good mix of sizes, with plenty of mediums and larges in promotable volumes.

Cal Giant’s plan is to prime the pump well in advance of Easter this year.

“Our emphasis is promoting long before Easter, considering it’s so late,” she said. “We hope to build big displays long in advance. Typically we ship a lot through April.”

Jewell expects more of the excellent movement that has marked the season for the California industry thus far.

“We’re already 5 million trays ahead compared to last year, and that gap should continue to widen,” she said.

With Mother’s Day following so closely on the heels of Easter this year, the commission is encouraging retailers not to take a break on promotions, particularly since volumes should be so heavy.

“The message is, ‘Stay on ad,’” she said.

On March 18, the U.S. Department of Agriculture reported a price of $12 for flats of 12 1-pint baskets of medium and large strawberries from California, down from $18-20 last year at the same time.

Asparagus

The glut of Mexican product that has caused California asparagus growers to disk fields early in the season could be a distant memory by the time Easter rolls around, with tight markets a strong possibility, said James Paul, asparagus and avocado salesman for The Giumarra Cos., Los Angeles.

By Easter, the Caborca growing region in Mexico should be more or less done for the season, with the smaller Obregon region providing asparagus for export, Paul said.

“By Easter, we’ll be able to get these California fields started, hopefully, but pricing is expected to be pretty high,” he said. “We could see a significant shortage.”

Cool growing weather in California should ensure tight tips and overall good quality, Paul said. A lack of extreme heat in Obregon also should equal good quality and steady volumes from that region, which Giumarra also will source from for Easter.

On March 18, the USDA reported a price of $9.75 for 11-pound crates and cartons of bunched large asparagus from Mexico, down from $18.75 last year at the same time.



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