OXNARD, Calif. — Strawberries out of Southern California are in tight supply for Valentine’s Day.
Grower-shippers say a January freeze has resulted in a shortfall for the Feb. 14 holiday.
Tom BurfieldVincent Ferrante, director of farming and harvesting operations for Watsonville, Calif.-based Dole Berry Co. LLC’s western division, checks benicia berries in an Oxnard, Calif., field in early February. “The strawberry situation going into the Valentine’s push is a little bit on the light side,” said Russ Widerburg, sales manager for Boskovich Farms Inc.
Demand is good, he said, and the open market ranges from $14-16, with some commitments at the $12 level.
“We’ve had an unusual start to the season, from six days of freezing weather to really warm weather and now a pretty good cool streak and a little bit of rain,” said Matt Kawamura, partner in Orange County Produce LLC, Irvine, Calif.
“For Valentine’s Day, people are scrambling to get stems,” he said Feb. 7. “It looks like it’s going to be tight.”
Yields for Deardorff Family Farms are about two-thirds of what they should be, said salesman Doug Lowthorp.
Lowthorp was concerned about cold weather forecast for Valentine’s week.
“I think it’s going to put the plants back to sleep,” he said Feb. 7.
Rain and cold weather have temporarily slowed production in Oxnard for Salinas, Calif.-based Dole Berry Co. LLC, said Vincent Ferrante, director, farming and harvesting operations, West.
However, he added, “Overall for the season, we’re ahead of production.”
Grower-shippers seemed optimistic for spring.
Tom BurfieldA worker picks strawberries in an Oxnard, Calif., field of Ventura County Produce in early February. The company is growing san andreas and benicia strawberries in Oxnard this season, says Matt Kawamura of Irvine, Calif.-based Orange County Produce LLC, which is a partner in the operation.“The fields are very healthy, and I think you’ll have a good push of bloom in early March,” Kawamura said.
“We’re anticipating, following Valentine’s Day, the fruit to begin to come back in,” Ferrante said.
The fruit that is available looks good, they said.
“Following the little bit of frost and rain that we’ve had, this week the fruit has started to look very, very good,” Ferrante said.
“Quality has been fantastic,” Lowthorp said. “The only issues we’ve really had were a little bit of wind damage from four or five days of Santa Ana winds, but it wasn’t enough to strip fruit.”