PLANT CITY, Fla. — Florida grower-shippers began harvesting strawberries a little earlier than normal, and buyers should expect the season to bring volume a couple of weeks sooner than usual.
Doug OhlemeierShawn Pollard (left), salesman for Plant City, Fla.-based Astin Strawberry Exchange LLC, and salesmen J.R. Pierce and Josh Collins inspect early season strawberries in late November. Florida grower-shippers began harvesting strawberries a little ahead of schedule and buyers should expect this year to bring earlier season volume. Although a Wish Farms grower in Floral City, about 50 miles north of Plant City, began light harvesting in late October, some Plant City growers started harvesting in mid-November, about a week ahead of the normal.
Gary Wishnatzki, Wish Farms’ president and chief executive officer, said volume is building and should be producing stronger volume by Dec. 10, with promotable volume hitting the market Dec. 15-20.
“Industry volume should be a little earlier this year than normal,” Wishnatzki said Nov. 28. “The berries look great and things are off to a good start and we have had great weather. Right now, it doesn’t look like we’ll have the glut we had last year. We should have good volume.”
Wishnatzki said he finished harvesting his Salinas, Calif., volume Nov. 27 and said the Golden State was slowing its seasonal production.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture wasn’t reporting Florida prices yet but said light shipments were expected to continue through Dec. 5. The USDA reported low overnight temperatures delaying crop maturities.
From Oxnard, Calif., the USDA reported 12 1-pint baskets medium-large selling for $22 with flats of eight 1-pound containers with lids medium-large selling for $20.
Florida opening season prices are similar to last year in early December when the USDA reported the eight 1-pound clamshells from central Florida selling for $22.90-24.90, with prices occasionally lower.
Paul Berger, executive vice president and produce director for Food City Markets, Pearl River, N.Y., said the start of Florida’s strawberry season should help supplies and demand.
“Strawberries are not only nonexistent, but prices are absurd,” he said Nov. 29. “When you’re talking $5-6 for a container of strawberries, no one would buy them. You have to basically give them away if you could sell them at all.
“The Florida start should ease the market considerably because volume has been so tight. No one looks forward to high-priced berries, but when they’re plentiful it’s certainly something to look forward to.”