Volumes of both conventional and organic strawberries are growing weekly out of California’s Santa Maria region. “We are entering the transitional period of crops moving from the Salinas/Watsonville growing region to Santa Maria and Oxnard for fall production. We expect our Northern crop production in Salinas and Watsonville to rebound with larger volumes than in recent weeks but it will start to decline again in mid-September,” says Tom Smith, director of sales at California Giant Berry Farms. From then on, production out of the Southern growing districts will increase and peak production volume should be in the first week of October.
“We are fortunate that this summer has delivered fairly moderate weather and we’ve maintained good quality in all regions of production. The quality is great, with berries that are large and firm with full color,” says Smith.
He also notes that there’s ground transitioning out of production and being prepped for planting 2023’s crops in Salinas and Watsonville.
Strong demand expected for September
Meeting this strawberry volume has been very good demand this summer and it is demand that has exceeded supplies for the last month particularly. “We expect that will continue into September,” says Smith. “We are past the large peak volumes of summer strawberry supplies and heading into fall and winter when volumes are relatively limited and spread out between multiple growing regions.”
At the same time, the strawberry’s sister berry, the blueberry, is currently seeing plentiful volume. “It helps! We have many retail and foodservice customers looking for suppliers of a full berry patch—especially with a year-round program—which is what we have,” says Smith, adding that it partners with retailers and foodservice distributors who have the capacity to support all four berries (raspberries and blackberries as well). This in turn helps increase sales by offering the whole berry category.
All of this leaves pricing above average for most of August. California Giant’s spring strawberry crop in Salinas and Watsonville hit peak production rates in late May through mid-June and volumes began declining rapidly in July and then moving into seasonal lows in August. “As more volume begins to come out of southern growing districts of Santa Maria and Oxnard, we expect pricing to stabilize some but still expect strong pricing and strong demand to continue in September,” adds Smith.