Strawberry shipments on the rise

07/22/2010 02:32:08 PM
Susie Cable

It’s been a season of record shipments for California strawberry growers, and mid-July prices were steady as compared to last year’s.

California growers shipped nearly 109.2 million trays of strawberries so far this year as of the week ending July 3, said Carolyn O’Donnell, communications director for the California Strawberry Commission, Watsonville. Last year at the same time, California’s year-to-date shipping total was about 108 million trays.

“Pretty much every grower-shipper is picking a lot, and that’s good news for the retailer and the consumer,” said Cindy Jewell, director of marketing, California Giant Inc., Watsonville.

As of July 6, California growers had shipped more than 7 million trays in each of four weeks of this year. In 2009, its highest weekly shipping volumes were about 6 million trays, which occurred in 10 weeks.

Despite greater volume, prices were the same as last year. On July 14, the U.S. Department of Agriculture reported that prices for flats of eight 1-pound strawberry containers with lids shipping from Salinas and Watsonville, Calif., were at $7-8, the same as they were a year earlier.

O’Donnell said there were fewer acres of strawberries planted this year as compared to last year, but a combination of good growing weather and higher-yield varieties was producing a bigger volume.

California Giant has the same acreage of strawberries as last year, but it is expected to ship more trays, Jewell said. The company ships between 18 million and 21 million trays in a season.

“We had a wet and cold winter and that helped the plants to get a lot of vigor,” she said. “It helped in getting the salt out of the soil and producing optimal conditions.”

The albion and san andreas varieties are two higher-yield varieties California Giant is growing this summer. Promotable supplies should be available at least through September, with smaller volumes in October until the season ends in November.

“Good, strong volumes will prevail all summer long,” Jewell said.

Red Blossom Farms, Santa Ynez, Calif., planted 2,400 acres of strawberries this year in Santa Maria, Calif., and in the Salinas/Watsonville area, said Michelle Deleissegues, director of marketing. She said the company expects to ship 14 million trays this season, and it should have promotable volumes through September.

Driscoll Strawberry Associates Inc., Watsonville, was harvesting good quality strawberries in July, said Douglas Ronan, vice president of marketing.

He said the company projected continued good quality into October. Volumes were beginning to peak in mid-July, Ronan said, and were expected to remain high until about Labor Day, when a drop in volume typically occurs.


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