Cold weather dampens strawberry production but spares blueberry damage - The Packer

Cold weather dampens strawberry production but spares blueberry damage

03/09/2010 08:24:05 AM
Doug Ohlemeier

PLANT CITY, Fla. —  Buyers should prepare for big promotions to counter an abundance of Florida strawberries expected to hit the market in mid-March.

Doug Ohlemeier

Strawberries at a field near Plant City in late February. Grower-shippers are advising buyer to prepare for big promotions to help move a surge in Florida strawberries that is expected to hit the market in mid-March. Freezes that struck during January and the continued cold weather since have delayed pickings and fruit maturities.

Though growers were able to protect their strawberries from the blast of colder-than-normal weather that blew through central Florida’s berry growing regions during January, the freezing temperatures delayed pickings and fruit maturities.

That cold weather, however, didn’t damage the state’s blueberry crop, which needs chill hours to properly produce.

Florida’s winter strawberry deal normally runs through early to mid-April while growers begin picking the state’s blueberries in late March.

Continued cold prevented proper fruit coloring in February, and it has been many days since growers have seen the amount of bloom they were seeing on plants on second hands of picking in mid- to late February, said Gary Wishnatzki, president of Wishnatzki Farms.

Wishnatzki said growers expect to produce a flush of fruit beginning March 10-15 with heavy volumes running through Easter, which falls on April 4 this year.

“We will build a crescendo going into Easter this year and we could have some of our heaviest volume of the season leading into Easter,” Wishnatzki said in mid-February. “It’s not looking good from the growers’ perspective because so much volume will be coming at one time. It will be hard to keep them picked and hard to keep them sold.”

Wishnatzki said growers will need retailers to plan aggressive March promotions to help keep movement going into April.

Calling this season’s prices a bit higher than normal, Wishnatzki in mid-February quoted $16-18 for flats of 8 1-pound clamshells.

Shippers send most of Florida’s berries to retailers in 1-pound clamshells.

Wishnatzki plans to ship about 3 million flats this season, more than the 2.5 million flats his operation shipped last season.

Wm. P. Hearne Produce Co. LLC, Wimauma, has boosted its strawberry acreage.

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