This year, about 15% of the firm’s strawberries will be organic.
Naturipe started growing organic strawberries five years ago in Northern California, said Craig Moriyama, director of berry operations for Salinas-based Naturipe Berry Growers Inc.
The company launched a program in Oxnard two or three years ago.
“There’s a fantastic market for organic strawberries,” he said.
Naturipe always could use more organic berries, Moriyama said, but there are land limitations.
Deardorff Family Farms, Oxnard, tried organic strawberries but found that the company does not have a ranch that is conducive to organics, said salesman Doug Lowthorp.
It’s likely that the company will get back into them at some point, he said.
“The demand is always there,” he said, but a grower must take into account the cost to grow and yields per acre.
“Growing anything organically adds substantially to the cost,” he said.
Growers charge a premium for organic strawberries because they involve a lot more labor and other inputs than conventional fruit, Staka said.
F.o.b. prices for organic strawberries hit $30 per tray early this season, Moriyama said.
“Shoppers are willing to pay for it.”
Naturipe has doubled its organic acreage over the years, he said, yet demand remains good.
“There always will be a price difference,” Jewell said.
Organic prices fall more in line with conventional during peak season, however, when there’s a lot of fruit in the marketplace, she said.