After rain and cold slowed strawberry harvesting in California, volumes are up again and expected to be at promotable volumes for Mother's Day. ( File photo )

Rain and cold weather slowed the start of the 2018 strawberry harvest in California’s Salinas/Watsonville district. But picking was on the rise by mid-April, and grower-shippers expected promotable strawberry volume by Mother’s Day, May 13.

“In the next couple of weeks, (picking) is going to ramp up pretty significantly,” Cindy Jewell, vice president of marketing for California Giant Berry Farms, Watsonville, said April 11.

She expects volume to double each week.

“By the end of April, we’re going to be pushing some good fruit for Mother’s Day,” she said.

The harvest also was gathering steam at Watsonville-based Well-Pict Inc., said Jim Grabowski, director of marketing.

“Barring any weather occurrences, we should be in very good shape for the Mother’s Day holiday,” he said. “We think quality will be excellent.”

About 25% to 30% of Naturipe Berry Growers’ Salinas acreage was being harvested in mid-April, said Craig Moriyama, director of berry operations.

He expects volume to pick up significantly as the month goes on.

“It looks like, for Mother’s Day, we should be in pretty good production,” he said.

Most Mother’s Day volume will come out of the Santa Maria district, but he said Salinas growers should have plenty of large berries.

“It will be a good time to promote long-stems,” he said.

The Salinas/Watsonville district has 13,233 acres of strawberries this season, according to the Watsonville-based California Strawberry Commission.

That will account for 39% of the state’s strawberry acreage.

Last year, the district had 13,570 acres and accounted for 37% of the state’s strawberry acreage.

The district produced more than 102 million trays of strawberries in 2017, up from 100,820,365 trays in 2016.

Most growers said they expected volume in 2018 to be similar to last year’s.

Growers also expected “normal” prices this season.

“So far, prices are good back to the farmer,” Jewell said. “But once we get into some significant volume throughout the state, that changes.”

Grabowski said it’s difficult to predict prices, but he added that, “There’s nothing that’s indicating there will be (a) bump in price.”

Rain in mid-March pretty much turned Easter into a bust for the strawberry industry, grower-shippers said.

“Consumers wanted to know why there weren’t strawberries in their stores,” Jewell said.

Conditions should be much improved for Mother’s Day.

“We should definitely have the pipeline pretty much filled, and we’re hoping our retail partners are ready with front-and-center displays,” she said.

Three growing areas — Salinas/Watsonville, Santa Maria and Oxnard — should be producing for Mother’s Day, Grabowski said.

“There should be plentiful berries available for Mother’s Day and some promotable prices,” he said.