Growers comment on upcoming storm

Continuous rains take a toll on California strawberry production

As the California strawberry market heats up, suppliers are feeling the effects of the rainy weather that’s hung over the state for the past few weeks.

“The rain and brutal weather conditions have caused for a lot of stripping, fruit loss and minimal supplies,” says Vince A. Rosa of V & H Fresh, LLC of Ripon, Ca. In California, Rosa notes that Watsonville and Salinas are trying to get started but being met with that challenging weather. “The Watsonville region is trying to get back into production this week but with another storm on the horizon and 1 to 1.5 inches of rain predicted, the recovery will be slow and this will set everyone back a few weeks,” Rosa adds. 

Photo: V&H Fresh

Few weeks out from volume production
“We’re seeing Oxnard bounce back from all the rain we had the week before last so production is increasing in Oxnard. And we are just starting to harvest in Santa Maria but we’re still probably a few weeks out from volume production,” notes says Charlie Staka of CBS Farms LLC. That said, overall Staka says that total volume so far is a little less than last year. “We lost a lot of strawberries to the rain that we had the week before last. It was a pretty damaging rain,” he says. 

Jim Grabowski with Well Pict added that the upcoming rain storm predicts 0.1 to 0.25 inch of rain in the Oxnard area. "Oxnard is our main growing area right now," he said. "With this forecast, we are not too concerned as there would be no big impact. With one-tenth of an inch of rain, we would still go into the fields and pick. If it rains 0.25 inch, we would just sit it out and wait until the rain is over. However, if the forecast changes and more rain is predicted, we will start picking ahead. We will try to avoid losing any crop."

Well Pict's Jim Grabowski

Affect on travel
Shipping distances can also be affected notes Rosa. “Rain has hindered growth and the fruit has been under a lot of stress which limits the distance it can travel and overall shelf life,” he says. “Berry counts on 8/1# are at a respectable 16-18 count but the fruit just doesn't have the strength nor legs to travel.”

At the same time, demand is solid for California strawberries. “It exceeds supply right now because you have districts that are finishing—Florida and Mexico—and they don’t have the quality to make retail right now. The demand for this new crop exceeds because there’s not enough good fruit out there right now,” says Staka. 

Suppliers are also playing it safe and shipping the fruit to Los Angeles too to trim the travel distances. “There is more shelf-life and value when shipping a short distance,” says Rosa. 

Photo courtesy CBS Farms

Pricing looking up
All of this of course has put pressure on pricing which is higher than last year. Staka notes that pricing is in the $14-$16 FOB range currently while Rosa notes that markets for 8/1# are between $20-$22 FOB.

And so for now, California growers are watching and waiting. “It’s a difficult time right now for California,” says Rosa. “This is one of those difficult times when the weather cripples the supplies.”

Staka also notes that growers are watching to avoid a flood of fruit hitting the market. “We’re cautious looking at the next few weeks to see if all the districts come in at one time and we have a big flush of fruit,” he says. “We have to make sure we know if it’s coming and promote accordingly.”

For more information:
Vince A. Rosa
V & H Fresh, LLC
Tel: +1 (209) -599-4340

Charlie Staka
Tel: +1 (831) 763-4401

Jim Grabowski
Tel: (+1) 708-227-1222

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