Unfavorable winter weather in California and Florida likely will result in tighter strawberry supplies for Valentine’s Day, grower-shippers said. But they’re much more optimistic about volume for Easter, which falls in late April this year.
Good news for shippers is that markets, which usually are high around Valentine’s Day anyway, should be even higher this year, following rain and cold weather during December and a freeze in Florida, said Russ Widerburg, sales manager for Boskovich Farms Inc., Oxnard, Calif.
He expected supplies out of Southern California to be at least a couple of weeks behind schedule by Valentine’s Day, Feb. 14.
Prices that typically are in the $14-16 per tray range could be as high as $20, he estimated in mid-January.
After experiencing very low volume in December, strawberries began to bounce back by January, said Cindy Jewell, director of marketing for California Giant Inc., Watsonville.
No one seemed to think that Southern California’s rainy season was over, despite the onslaught of precipitation that the region received during the last few weeks of December.
“I would certainly expect that it’s going to rain some more this season, even though we had a ton in December,” said David Cook, sales manager for Deardorff Family Farms in Oxnard.
“We are definitely susceptible to weather all the way until spring,” Jewell said.
“You hope that (rain) doesn’t happen during the holiday, but invariably it does,” she said.
But shippers seem pleased that Easter will be later than usual this year.
The April 24 date is good, “in the sense that it … gives us a little more room to get more volume going so everybody can get covered for Easter,” said Craig Casca, vice president and director of sales for Red Blossom Farms, Santa Ynez, Calif.
In the end, though, whether the Easter season ends up being a good one in terms of sales will depend on what happens in the markets between March 1 and Easter, he said.
Casca also was pleased that Mother’s Day falls just two weeks after Easter this year.
“It will keep demand going, and it will keep ads going,” he said, adding, “when there’s ads and demand, it’s good for the growers, and it’s also good for the customers.”
Widerburg pointed out there will be a bigger gap than usual between Valentine’s Day and Easter, but he added the region typically has significant weather fluctuations during that time.
“As a grower, we would prefer having Easter later so we have a smaller gap between Easter and Mother’s Day,” he said.
The narrow window between Easter and Mother’s Day this year should provide the perfect opportunity for retailers and consumers to take advantage of the “great quality and great abundance” of strawberries that should be available this spring, Jewell said.
“It will be a perfect time for retailers and consumers to enjoy berries,” she said.
Jewell encouraged retailers to “promote, promote, promote.”
While most shippers likely will see a sales bump for Easter and for Mother’s Day, that probably won’t be the case for Deardorff Family Farms, Cook said.
“I’m not sure how much after Easter we’re going to be able to hang in there, unless the market’s very good,” he said.
“We expect to have a lot of our fruit shipped by (Mother’s Day).”