PLANT CITY, Fla. — This year’s Florida strawberry deal should bring larger volume earlier than usual, growers say.
Thanks to favorable weather during late September and early October plantings, growers were able to begin transplants a week ahead of usual, the earliest ever, said Gary Wishnatzki, president and chief executive officer of Wish Farms.
Florida growers typically begin harvesting in late November and build volume into December before promotable volume hits in late December and early January.
Wishnatzki said he expects to ship some fruit before Thanksgiving.
“December should be a pretty good month for us this year,” he said in mid-October. “We will have bigger promotable volume than we normally do.”
Wishnatzki said increasing plantings of the early radiance variety should also produce more early volume in December.
The plants look well and said he couldn’t detect any disease issues.
Wishnatzki said last season’s prices were low, partly because abnormal winter heat caused many quality issues on the berries, which prefer cooler weather to keep them firm.
On Oct. 30, the U.S. Department of Agriculture reported flats of 8 1-pound containers with lids small-medium from Salinas, Calif., and Watsonville, Calif., selling for $10-12.
That’s lower than last year in mid-October, when clamshells from California sold for $12.
Most of Florida’s production is sold in flats of eight 1-pound clamshells.
He said Florida often opens the season around Thanksgiving with its clamshells marketed in the mid- to low $20s.
Ted Campbell, executive director of the Florida Strawberry Growers Association, Dover, said the deal may see a slight dip in acreage.
Campbell said early estimates show central Florida expects to produce about 10,500 acres, down from last year’s record 11,000 acres.
“It should stay similar to last year’s numbers or close to it,” he said in mid-October.
Campbell said rains during ground preparation made for slow transplanting but northern nurseries had a good summer growing season and helped produce high quality plants.
He said plantings may be a week or two later than optimum but said he doesn’t see any negative effect because the plants going in the ground in October look very healthy and got established in five to six days instead of 10.
Florida volume typically runs through late March with smaller volumes shipped into mid-April.