Strawberry volumes will start to return to normal as the Oxnard, Calif., deal picks up steam, but Valentineâs Day supplies could still be tight.
Harvests on both coasts were running about two weeks late the week of Jan. 10, said Dan Crowley, sales manager for Watsonville, Calif.-based Well-Pict Inc.
âOxnard just got under way,â Crowley said. âWe should start to see shipments by next week.â
Strawberry volumes in December were very light on the East and West coasts because of cold in Florida and rain in California, Crowley said.
Gary Wishnatzki, president and chief executive officer of Plant City, Fla.-based Wishnatzki Farms, said supplies were better than last year at this time â but thatâs not saying much, given the historic freezes in January 2010.
âSupplies are very tight this January,â he said. âSome production that we anticipated hasnât materialized. Itâs been one weather issue after another. And itâs not like retailers can fall back on California. Theyâre having their share of problems, too.â
It will probably be a few weeks before California volumes return to normal, and markets should stay strong as a result, said Russ Widerburg, sales manager for Oxnard-based Boskovich Farms.
On Jan. 11, the U.S. Department of Agriculture reported prices of $22-26 for flats of eight 1-pound containers of medium strawberries from California, up from $16-18.90 last year at the same time.
Flats of Florida strawberries were $20.90, up from $12.90-14.90 last year.
Supplies wonât likely start to pick up until after Valentineâs Day, Wishnatzki said.
âWeâll have some production for Valentineâs Day, but not enough to warrant large-scale promotions,â he said.
Wishnatzki is hoping fruit comes on in February to avoid a repeat of last seasonâs March glut.
The one silver lining, Wishnatzki said, has been the taste and condition of Florida fruit shipping this winter.
âWeâve had real positive feedback from customers,â he said. âThe quality is outstanding.â
Cold weather in California has made plants hardy, Widerburg said.
After two big freezes in Florida in December, there was the possibility of another one about Jan. 13, Crowley said.
Wishnatzki Farms had plans to water plants Jan. 13 to prevent freeze damage â something Wishnatzki wasnât looking forward to, since it will further slow the growth of plants.
Sizing was large on California berries in early January because fruit was taking so long to grow, Crowley said. Despite the wet weather, quality has been good, and the forecast the week of Jan. 10 was for dry conditions, he said.
Marketers could have trouble finding enough strawberries for Valentineâs Day promotions, Crowley said.
âThere will be some supplies for Valentineâs Day, but not enough,â he said.
Oxnard volumes wonât start to peak until April, Crowley said. Florida supplies are likely to wind down in March, he said.