With the Quebec strawberry season getting underway a little later than usual, it may face some timing challenges further on into the summer.
“Last year was the latest year we had in a long time—possibly ever. This year we went a week later than last year,” says Joey Boudreault with Onésime Pouliot Farm in Saint-Jean-de-l’Île-d’Orléans, Que. “We started maybe around the 24th of June. The Montreal area began a bit earlier than us by maybe a week because they are more south than we are.”
The later start is thanks to cooler temperatures and a late spring this year. “But last fall, we had a really early snow cover so the fields were well protected from the winter. There was next to no frost damage in the Quebec area where I am,” says Boudreault.
This means overall Boudreault is anticipating a shorter season than usual, wrapping up in October.
Timing is worrisome
Meanwhile the quality of the berries is strong. “The strawberries are beautiful. The quality of the field is incredible. Everything is green,” says Boudreault. “But the quality isn’t an issue. It’s really the timing of the season that worries us. The market in Quebec is at maturity so we’ll need good cooperation from our local chains and clients to sell and distribute all those berries. I am confident we will.” Peak volume is anticipated for August.
At the same time, Quebec growers are really just competing with themselves on strawberries. “We have next to no California berries right now. We have them during our winter but when we’re in season, we have a strong local attachment. People in Quebec are waiting for the Quebec strawberries,” says Boudreault.
However at least one neighboring province may be another place for the volume of berries Quebec is seeing. “We are sending some berries to Ontario because Quebec does roughly twice as many berries as Ontario,” says Boudreault. “And over the past five years, Quebec production has increased by 60 percent with the same variety.”
Opening up distribution?
With its robust crop, Quebec may also eye other regions to distribute its berries to with markets such as California producing less this season. “We are competing with California areas such as Watsonville and Salinas growing at the same time as us so it’s a good opportunity for us,” says Boudreault. “However, Quebec berries and California berries aren’t the same thing. California has more volume and a longer shelf life. Quebec asks for high-flavor berries. So if we want to export, we have to find the right people to work with. Or we have to find some new tools because it’s a more fragile berry with a shorter shelf life. Or we have to find a variety that’s growing well here.”
Meanwhile while pricing is good now on berries, Boudreault anticipates a drop is coming. “The price is a little bit more right now because the start of the season was later. It happens every year. This year is just a little bit later than usual,” he says. “We’re expecting to have more berries in the coming weeks, so the price should be lower than it was at the same time last year.”