The lengthy California strawberry season continues as the Oxnard region re-enters production. Watsonville, which has been producing strawberries since the spring, continues strongly although the season is now finally winding down. The Oxnard crop in harvest now was planted in summer and growers say the excellent growing conditions have resulted in strong production and high quality berries.
"Our fall crop in Oxnard has now been producing strawberries for four weeks, with another five to six weeks to go," shared Jim Grabowski of Well Pict. "The Oxnard crop is fresh and strong and the quality is looking excellent, with sizing, coloring and taste all exceeding expectations - we just wish we had more!"
Grabowski said Well Pict is currently producing around 35,000 berries a day in Oxnard, with the peak just about over now. He added that the Oxnard crop is typically a lower-yield crop than the ones that grow at the height of summer. "It's not a large volume crop because there is less sunlight at this time of year and growth is less vigorous."
Demand for strawberries softening in fall
The California season has largely enjoyed an uneventful and fruitful year, in terms of seasonable weather, good yields and reasonably steady markets. The further we get away from summer, the further demand is from its peak during that season. Suppliers know that at this time of year, it is more about satisfying the market for year-round berries rather than keeping up with peak summer demand.
"For the most part, it's been a fairly good year in California," Grabowski noted. "Demand is now slower as we are getting deep into fall, which is normal. Strawberries have been around all summer and consumers are looking more closely at fall fruit such as apples and pears. But there is still steady demand as consumers get used to seeing fruits all year round."
Jim Grabowski at PMA Fresh Summit in Orlando this month.
Baja crop next
After the Oxnard and Watsonville crops finish for this year, production moves south over the winter to Mexico, and Baja in particular. Before we know it, Oxnard will begin again for the spring crop. "After Christmas, we will move to Baja for the winter production," Grabowski shared. "Then Oxnard will start again in the spring, when there will also be Florida strawberries around again."
Well Pict also had a booth at PMA and Grabowski said it was a great opportunity for networking and getting in touch with customers and others interested in their berries. "PMA was very good," he recalled. "We had the opportunity to see and talk with many people and although the show itself is very large, people kept coming on a steady basis."