In Florida, the annual Florida Strawberry Festival ceremonially kicks off both the spring season and the strawberry season. However, a shadow now looms over this tradition. The state’s lucrative strawberry industry could be in trouble if strawberry growers don’t start getting more for their berries.
Florida is one of the biggest domestic producers of strawberries, second only to California., and it’s the only producer of winter strawberries in the United States. But Florida farmers are experiencing a declining market in recent years, said Zhengfei Guan, a University of Florida economist. The reason for this decline, he said, is the massive influx of Mexican strawberries.
Guan works with the Florida Strawberry Growers Association (FSGA), an organization that calls itself the voice for strawberry growers. Since 1982, they’ve supported about 11,000 acres of berries throughout the state through promotion and research, according to the organization’s website.
From 2000 to 2017, the volume of berries imported from central Mexico increased fivefold, so now Mexico produces 60% more strawberries than Florida, according to Guan’s study for the FSGA. Guan said this new market competition is putting immense pressure on Florida’s industry and farmers are struggling financially.
That concerns Kenneth Parker, FSGA’s executive director. The new growth in the Mexican strawberry industry enabled some unfair trading practices that have pushed Florida growers to lower their prices, Parker said. These low prices, he said, are unfair because to stay competitive, domestic farmers have to give up some of their revenue, therefore, making less money every season.