(April 14, 12:03 p.m.) California strawberry grower-shippers expect Mother’s Day sales to rebound strongly from tepid Easter demand, and Washington asparagus growers are optimistic holiday pull will boost sagging markets.
“It’s been a cool spring, and Easter volume was not where we wanted it to be,” said Carolyn O’Donnell, issues and food safety manager for the Watsonville-based California Strawberry Commission. “There is some pent-up demand that will be met with Mother’s Day.”
On April 8, the U.S. Department of Agriculture reported prices of $7.90-8.90 for flats of 12 1-pint baskets of medium and large strawberries from California, up from $6.90-7.90 last year at the same time.
O’Donnell expected plentiful supplies of high-quality fruit for the holiday from the Oxnard, Santa Maria and Watsonville growing regions. Color, taste and size were all excellent so far this season, she said.
“All the cards are lining up for us,” said Atomic Torosian, partner in Crown Jewels Marketing & Distribution LLC, Fresno, which also plans to ship from all three regions. “We anticipate real good supplies, and the quality is outstanding — the sizes are big, and it’s eating fantastic.”
Growers had been worried about rain predicted for mid-April, O’Donnell said, but revised forecasts as of April 9 had the storms moving north of the state’s strawberry-growing regions.
Washington asparagus grower-shippers are hoping California is mostly done shipping by Mother’s Day, paving the way for stronger markets for the Evergreen State, said Angela Weeks, salesperson for Yakima-based Rasmussen Marketing Inc.
“I think they’ll be up, probably similar to where we ended last year; $36-38 is what I’ve quoted,” she said.
On April 8, the USDA reported prices of $30.75-32.75 for 28-pound pyramid cartons and crates of bunched long green large asparagus from California, up from $26.75-28.75 last year at the same time but lower than the previous three years.
Because of unseasonally cold weather in Washington, harvest was setting up perfectly for Mother’s Day, with peak volumes expected just in time for holiday pull.
Harvest is expected to begin about April 17, nine or 10 days later than normal, Weeks said.
That means that instead of Mother’s Day coming toward the end of the Washington deal, this year it should fall in the heart of it, she said.
The cold temperatures shouldn’t have any effect on quality, which Weeks expects to be excellent.
Sizing should be larger than last year because Rasmussen’s growers have switched some production to new fields, Weeks said. The newer the field, the larger the spears, she said.
That also sets up nicely for Mother’s Day, she said.
“The extra-larges and jumbos are ideal for grilling, which works perfectly for all the summer holidays,” she said.