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Cold weather puts Florida strawberry production on ice
Strawberry production in Florida has been delayed as growers wait for warmer weather to return. The cold weather that persisted late last week and into the weekend has slowed down fruit growth. Additionally, farmers have turned their attention to protecting their crops, putting harvesting temporarily on hold.
"It's been getting down to around 29, 30 degrees the past couple of nights here in Plant City," said Robert Wilhelm of Bova Fresh in Central Florida. "This has slowed down production in the region as there is still a lot of green fruit. Currently, the focus is on protecting the crops with field covers and watering of the beds. The forecast of cold nights is to continue for several more nights before warmer weather returns and production gets back to normal."
Wilhelm predicted that strawberry supplies out of Florida will therefore be limited for the next couple of weeks. "As this is affecting the primary strawberry growing district in Florida, the expectation is for supplies to be limited until January 19-22," he said.
Supplies to return to normal before Valentine's Day
Once the cold weather moves away from the area, ripening of the fruit should pick up and production will resume at normal levels. This will be good news for suppliers looking to cash in on Valentine's Day sales. The market is firm for both contract as well as spot pricing.
"The forecast is for the warmer weather to return in a few days," Wilhelm noted. "This will see a flush of fruit come the 3rd week of January and we expect that good numbers will return. Supplies of strawberries from Florida will be strong for Valentine's Day, as long as similar cold weather does not return. Current prices for contracts range from $14.90-$16.90, and the spot market is also firm at $18.90."
Apart from the slowdown in the current movement of fruit, growers are pleased with the quality they are seeing in the fields. They also have noted that customers have been buying more larger packs this year. "Quality is high out in the fields and the berries are sizing up nicely," Wilhelm said. "Packaging has been consistent with past years, but we have sold more of the 2lb packs this year. We've also been selling a lot of lugs, which are bulk boxes filled with about 8lb of fruit that is sent for processing."
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