California strawberry volumes should continue heavy as fall deals ramp up.
Weekly volumes shipping in September were at record levels for that time of year, said Chris Christian, senior vice president of the Watsonville-based California Strawberry Commission.
The industry was shipping just over 5.5 million trays a week in the month, she said.
In the second half of September, Watsonville, Calif.-based California Giant Berry Farms was sourcing big volumes from both the Salinas/Watsonville and the Santa Maria growing regions, said Cindy Jewell, the company’s vice president of marketing.
“There’s a lot of fruit out there,” she said. “The weather finally warmed up in Salinas/Watsonville, so an Indian summer kicked in, and Santa Maria has started.”
As apples and other fall fruits take up more and more shelf space at retail, movement has been sluggish at times, Jewell said.
“The flow hasn’t been as smooth as we’d like it,” she said. “I think some display sizes are shrinking. It’s been flat.”
On Sept. 20, the U.S. Department of Agriculture reported prices of $6-7 for 1-pound containers of medium strawberries from Salinas/Watsonville, down from $8-10 last year at the same time.
Cal Giant began sourcing in Santa Maria in early September and was in full volume by the second half of the month, Jewell said.
Despite difficulties finding enough workers to pick crops, volumes would likely stay robust for the near future, Jewell said.
Higher-yielding varieties coming into production in Santa Maria and Watsonville/Salinas was one factor behind the production surge, Christian said.
And when fall production takes over, an 18% boost in Santa Maria fall acreage should guarantee a continuation of the ample late-summer volumes, she said.
“There’s a lot of promotable volume, and a good, strong fall crop,” she said.
The week of Sept. 19 some Oxnard growers were already shipping some fall product, Christian said. By the first or second week of October, production in the region should be in full force. Oxnard fall acreage, however, is down slightly from last year, she said.
In the second half of September sizes were peaking on mediums and growers were reporting “reasonably good” quality, Christian said.
Sizes will increase as new-crop fruit comes on, she said.