Strawberries ripening quickly in warm Florida

The strawberry season in Florida is currently in its peak. Recent warm weather has resulted in an increase in production and growers are having trouble harvesting the rapidly ripening fruit. However, this week has seen a return to average temperatures and subsequently conditions are predicted to settle down shortly.

"These past few weeks have been unseasonably warm here in Florida," said Alison Sizemore of Sizemore Farms in Plant City. "Production has certainly picked up and it has caused some issues with over ripeness and bruising. The fruit is coming on so quickly that we are struggling to pick it all and therefore they become ripe in the fields. However, things are turning around now with the return of more seasonable conditions."

Alison Sizemore

Market weakening on back of increased supply
With the increase in fruit available, the market has been weakening in recent weeks. It's not just the current high production in Florida, but growers are also observing an increase in the amount of strawberries arriving from Mexico. An increase in funding has seen overall acreage expand in the country, resulting in an increase in competition for US growers.

"The strawberry market is weaker and prices are lower overall," Sizemore noted. "Right now there is a surplus of supply, with the main competition coming from Mexican producers. Production there has been increasing for a number of years now resulting in more competition every year. The Mexican government has been subsidizing the industry and providing more funds for improving innovation and farming practices. A lot of the strawberry production takes place in hoop houses, which means they are much less affected by weather conditions. They also have much lower labor costs and can subsequently offer retailers a lower price for their berries."

Challenging season
There is still another month to go for the Florida season. Growers have seen a number of challenges this year, but remain optimistic that the end of the season will see favorable weather conditions and a positive end to the strawberry season.

"Now that there is an abundance of fruit, farmers have started to cut back on acreage, which is the earliest we have ever done that," Sizemore said. "There have also been a number of new varieties which we have been trying out this season and learning how to grow. Out of all the challenges this year, labor remains the biggest one. Overall, it has been a tough year for Florida growers. But with the weather stabilizing, we are hoping for more favorable conditions moving forward and a positive end to the season in the lead up to Easter."

For more information:
Alison Sizemore
Sizemore Farms, Inc.
Tel: +1 (813) 737-3133

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