Despite Less Acreage, California Strawberry Shipments May Increase

Despite Less Acreage, California Strawberry Shipments May Increase

Over production and poor markets has the California strawberry industry in a quandary following the 2018 season when profits took a big hit. That’s not so bad for truckers hauling the fruit simply because more loads are available.

However, the strawberry growers and shippers were expecting a major reduction in acreage this year, but that apparently hasn’t happened.

During late January strawberry shipments from Ventura County were very light with some quality issues. However, volume is building weekly and quality is expected to improve at the same time. Decent volume is occurring just in time for Valentine’s Day (February 14) shipments.

However, the bigger issue remains over production. California’s acreage report estimates 25,704 acres for 2019, but that is only a 1,722-acre drop, which would be about a 6 percent decrease. California’s acreage dropped by almost 8 percent from 2017 to 2018, but as is the case this year, strawberry production is expected to increase because newer varieties are having greater yields. In 2018, California shipped over 222 million trays of fresh strawberries to the market, which was a 10 percent increase over 2017 despite the 8 percent drop in acreage.

California Giant Berry Farms of Watsonville reports acreage has decreased, but the newer varieties have greater yields, so there is not the same drop in volume.

GEM-Pack Berries of Irvine, CA, likewise doesn’t see a drop in acreage during 2019 resulting in fewer berries to ship. The company points out around of 9 million trays were shipped during some weeks in 2018, which is simply too many berries for the market to absorb.

Colleen Strawberries Inc. of Watsonville, CA, also calls for a further reduction in the California acreage for the strawberries to be profitable. While weather problems could reduce shipments this season, the acreage total is not sustainable without some issue reducing overall volume.

On a positive note, huge volume is typical for Easter and this year Easter is late — April 21st. This should give the season extra time to be producing good volume and quality. California strawberry shipments tend to peak during April and May. Easter is followed by Mother’s Day three weeks later (May 12th), when shipments surge for both occasions.

The berry category in general remains strong for blueberries, blackberries and raspberries — as well as strawberries and continues to rise. Strawberries still remain the favorite with more than 50 percent of the total berry volume, but that number is decreasing.

Ventura County strawberries and vegetables – grossing about $7400 to New York City.