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Strong March predicted for Florida strawberries

Florida strawberry production is gaining ground, and March should see good supply. "We are still behind by about 55,000 flats on 100 acres compared to this time last year, which is a lot," says Gary Guynn of Guynn Family Produce Sales Inc. "We're catching up a bit, but I don't know if we'll catch up to where the numbers were last year."

While production is increasing, he notes that the weather is still fairly mild in the growing region with highs of 82-85 degrees Fahrenheit, though those temperatures aren't really reached until mid-afternoon. "So the evenings are still pretty cool. However, the volume is still steady, and it hasn't caught anybody off-guard," says Guynn.

As for rain, the season has really only seen one rain event earlier this month, which brought on about 2.5 inches of rain. "It stayed cool and dreary, which is the worst scenario for berries because it just lets fungus grow more in that cold, wet environment," he says. "It caused a few issues. Some varieties don't handle it as well as others, so some farms had to strip fields." That said, with an eye on the weather, growers adjusted their schedules to try to pick ahead as much as possible, which was easier to do given the cooler weather.

Photo: Florida Strawberry Growers Association

Looking at demand
Meanwhile, demand for strawberries has been very strong and continues to be, even with California's strawberry season underway. "We still have more orders than berries even though our volume has increased a bit," says Guynn. "I think it was the lack of Western berries, which was covered by Mexico for a while there, that helped demand. When all three areas are in, there are too many strawberries, but it hasn't been so this season."

As for pricing, the average price has been better than recent pricing. "There are still less of them, so we've been able to hold a better price," he says.

Looking ahead, March will be a promotable time for strawberries. The early Easter, another strawberry-associated holiday, will also help with movement. "I think it will be a strong March, and I don't foresee it hitting the bottom and falling apart," Guynn says.

The season could also run longer than the end of March or April, a historical wrap-up to the Florida strawberry season. "In seasons past, they'd cut acreage, especially when Mexico and California are in production," says Guynn. "If the market does get a bit weaker, I think everybody is okay to scale back on acreage to keep supply steady and not overdone."

For more information:
Gary Guynn
Guynn Family Produce Sales Inc.