“The volume is starting to ramp up,” he said Dec. 12.
“It has been a little spotty up until now, but we’re getting into good volume.”
Casca said the opening of Florida’s season times perfectly with the ending of the summer and fall Santa Maria, Calif., deal.
The Dover-based Florida Strawberry Growers Association expects growers to plant nearly 11,000 acres this season, up from the 9,500 acres planted last season.
The deal should produce up to 27 million flats, up from the 23.7 million flats growers brought to market last season, said Ted Campbell, executive director.
This year’s earlier season volume should allow for New Year’s promotions and could help growers hit the Valentine’s Day window, said Chris Smith, sales manager for BBI Produce Inc., Dover.
Because low temperatures can delay fruit maturity until a day or so before the holiday, growers often miss sending volume to retailers the week before.
“If we have cold in January and February, we can miss it this year too,” Smith said.
“Without a good start, we can’t have a good finish. We need the appropriate weather to carry us through. We just need the weather to cooperate to have that good second crop that comes in time for the Valentine’s Day business.”
Steve Machell, sales manager for Dover-based Gulf Coast Produce Inc., called early season harvesting strong.
“The quality looks really good now,” he said in early December.
“Thus far, it looks to be an excellent quality crop coming on. It’s a pleasure to move this product looking that nice. It makes it a whole lot easier.”
Shawn Pollard, salesman for Astin Strawberry Exchange LLC, said the early radiance variety is producing good-sized and high-quality fruit.
“Our fruit quality looks really good,” he said in early December.
“These radiances have large fruit at 16-18 count compared to the mid-20s we normally see up front. Sometimes, those early berries have the tendency to be a little smaller. But these berries are very nice.”
Florida volume typically runs through late March with smaller volumes shipped into mid-April.