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Oregon's strawberry industry in decline

Oregon's strawberry industry, once a robust export market, has faced decline due to stiff competition from California. Varieties like Hoods, Tillamooks, and Totems, renowned for their superior flavor and color, are increasingly overshadowed by cheaper, aesthetically pleasing berries from southern competitors, driving down local production according to

Statistics from the U.S. Department of Agriculture illustrate the decline: Oregon's strawberry harvest dropped to 11 million pounds in 2022, significantly down from 25 million pounds in 2004 and 40 million pounds in 2001. Ted Mackey, a USDA scientist specializing in strawberries, notes that Oregon farmers who supplied processors are now priced out by California's more economically viable varieties.

Oregon strawberries are prized for their sweetness and color, superior to those grown in warmer climates like Mexico and California. However, they face challenges such as a short shelf life and susceptibility to bruising during transport, according to Scott Lukas from Oregon State University.

Despite their premium quality, only 5% of Oregon strawberries are sold fresh; the remainder is processed for various products like pies and jams. Companies like Häagen-Dazs and Tillamook favor Oregon strawberries for their unique flavor profile, which is enhanced by the state's distinctive climate of cool nights and warm days.

Jayson Hoffman, chair of the Oregon Strawberry Commission, acknowledges that while California may outpace Oregon in cost-efficiency, it can't match the flavor of Oregon's berries. He attributes Oregon's rising production costs to minimum wage increases.

Looking ahead, efforts are underway to develop new strawberry varieties with longer shelf lives and to promote Oregon strawberries as a gourmet choice. Lukas emphasizes the importance of local consumer support to sustain Oregon's strawberry industry, framing it not as a dying sector but one in need of strategic adaptation and community backing.


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