Florida's strawberry growers are predicting that production will pick up in the next few weeks after a period of tighter supplies. There has been rain in the early part of the season, but growers believe there could be several factors that have affected overall volume across the state.
"The rain has not affected our business too much, but industry-wide, Florida growers agree that volume is down across the state," said Jake Raburn of Hinton Produce Farms in Dover. "It is most likely weather-related but we cannot pinpoint exactly what has happened as it could also have been pre-harvest. It will depend on the variety breakdown as to how much volume is down."
Raburn added that things are looking promising out in the field, leading to a prediction that volume is simply pushed back and Florida will be on par with what they typically produce for the entire season. "The plants are loaded with green fruit at the moment which should ripen in the next two to three weeks," he said. "If we get enough warm weather we should see volume pick up. It looks increasingly like it will be a later crop rather than a overall smaller crop."
Problems in Mexico keeping market strong
The market for strawberries is strong, not least because of the overall tight supplies since the start of the Florida season. Raburn shared that Hinton Farms has been busy trying to keep up with demand. "With the reduced supplies, the markets have been very good on strawberries. Every time we pick, we are short and sell out. It's not been a problem to get any business this season."
Winter sees very few regions in North America producing strawberries. Florida and Mexico are the main suppliers with minimal amounts also coming out of California. Florida growers have observed that Mexico has had its share of problems this year which is helping to keep the market strong.
"Our biggest competitor at this time of year is Mexico," Raburn explained. "They have had bad weather and have also been dealing with political unrest. There are reports of fuel shortages in the country which is preventing efficient strawberry production, with freight being affected and workers not having enough fuel to make it to the fields. Mexico certainly has a big impact on the market, and when they have issues, it affects everyone."
"Brilliance" strawberry variety doing well
Researchers at the University of Florida recently introduced a new strawberry variety to the market. Named ‘Florida Brilliance', the variety is being grown commercially for the first time this season. Growers like Hinton Farms are reporting excellent results from the use of this variety, one of the advantages being resistance to damage from rainfall. As a result, many of the growers that have started using Brilliance will be looking to increase acreage in the coming years.
"We started using one of the newest strawberry varieties - 'Florida Brilliance' and it seems to be working very well," observed Raburn. "It produces a big, firm berry and it's likely we will see a bigger shift to this variety across the industry."