Record Florida March strawberry volume expected - The Packer

Record Florida March strawberry volume expected

03/02/2010 02:56:22 PM
Doug Ohlemeier

PLANT CITY, Fla. — Retailers should plan large promotions to help sell a glut of Florida strawberries expected to hit the market in mid-March.

Grower-shippers expect this season’s crop to rebound with higher than normal volumes after freezing weather in January.
Gary Wishnatzki, president and chief executive officer of Wishnatzki Farms, said his company expects to ship its highest volume ever in March. Temperatures are forecast to increase to the mid-70s the week of March 8, and Wishnatzki said grower-shippers plan to ship significantly higher volumes of berries by the middle of the month.

Doug Ohlemeier

Florida grower-shippers are advising retailers to expect a large glut of strawberries to hit the market in the middle of March. Freezes that struck during January and the continued cold weather since have delayed pickings and fruit maturities but strawberry fields such as these near Plant City in late February are expected to rebound in volume and flood the market with berries.

Last year in mid-March Wishnatzki Farms picked around 242 crates an acre a week. This year, he said he expects to pick 329 crates an acre the week of March 15 and up to 400 crates an acre during the week of March 22.

“It is imperative for the industry to have major promotions from mid-March on,” Wishnatzki said in early March. “In order for growers to be able to continue picking their crop and make it through Easter, they will have to have some very heavy promotions for the week of March 15. If you look at a production graph, it’s like a rocket ship with a straight line going up. In comparing last year’s ramp up as a gentle hill, this year, it will be like climbing Mount Everest.”

Though he called prices “all over the board,” Chris Smith, sales manager for BBI Produce Inc., Dover, said Florida prices have remained favorable for March production.

On March 1, the U.S. Department of Agriculture reported demand exceeding supply at lower prices for central Florida production.

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