Posts Tagged “California strawberries”

Bobalu Berry Farms is Growing and Shipping California Strawberries Year Around

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Bobalu Berry Farms is celebrating its 60th anniversary this year and the Jones Family has announced it has transitioned to a fully integrated company.

Headquartered in Oxnard, CA, Bobalu for the first time will ship California fresh strawberries 12 months a year. In the past it has typically relied on fresh volume from Mexico during the winter months after the Santa Maria fall crop concludes, and before the spring season kicks off in Oxnard.

However, for the first time as the 60th anniversary is celebrated in 2022, the company has added a fall Oxnard crop in addition to Santa Maria’s fall program that will come on a bit later carrying fresh California fruit into 2023. Now Oxnard will be the first and the last district harvesting each year for the company within the state. The addition of the crop from Mexico will compliment domestic fruit providing a beneficial overlap during the holidays.

Bobalu points out in 2021 it introduced software integration as part of its expansion plans.

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California Strawberry Commission Issues an Open Letter

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During the uncertainty caused by the COVID-19 Pandemic, the food supply chain has been called upon to create stability for the country. As the largest agricultural employer in the country, California strawberry farms were among the first to implement CDC guidance. Strawberry farms are committed to protecting farm worker health, maintaining farm jobs and harvesting every box for American consumers.

For consumers, strawberries have a special role, as one of the top two fruits designated as high in vitamin C. During the spring (April 15-June 1) strawberries are the second most consumed, high in vitamin C, fresh fruit, after oranges.

Now, strawberry supplies are threatened by the COVID-19 peak in April and downward trend into May – which has already brought food service to a standstill and stores to regulate consumer access.

Perishable items will be most affected by the COVID-19 peak, especially crops such as berries that will be in full production during the same period of April through May. Blueberry farms in Florida, Georgia, and California, as well as California strawberry farms project more than 30% of the crop will be disrupted – threatening the loss of thousands of jobs and hundreds of millions of dollars. For comparison, fresh strawberry retail sales were over $953 million during the 13 weeks ending June 16, 2019.

Our options are few: leave the crop to rot in the field or pick every box and have faith in our supply chain partners to get this important source of vitamins and nutrients into the hands of consumers, through supermarkets, food banks, online, and every other channel available.

Our choice is clear – harvest every box. We have asked the US Department of Agriculture for assistance and call upon every link in the supply chain to restock shelves and help us preserve over 70,000 jobs related to delivering healthy, nutritious strawberries to consumers, and for all to stay safe.


Hector Gutierrez, Farmer & Chairman
Rick Tomlinson, President

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Significant Increase in California Strawberry Shipments Coming in Time for Easter

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While there were tight supplies of Southern California strawberries for Valentine’s Day shipments, growers expect improved volume leading up to Easter, which is April 21st.

Strawberry acreage in Ventura County is once again down this season — 5,300 acres compared to 5,518 acres last year — but production is expected to increase since farmers are planting higher-yielding varieties.

The California Strawberry Commission, based in Watsonville, confirms there has been reduced acreage during the past several years, but at the same there has been record-breaking shipments annually for the past 4 or 5 years.

Growers in the Oxnard area a year ago produced about 38.6 million trays of strawberries, up from about 37.2 million trays in 2017.

This year rains have hindered the start of the 2019 season.

As of the week ending February 2nd growers in the Southern California district, which includes Oxnard, Orange County, Coachella and San Diego, had shipped about 2 million trays of strawberries. A year ago, volume for the same period was about 3.3 million trays.

Easter typically kicks off the primary shipping season for California strawberries, when berries will be available from several growing areas in the state, including Watsonville.

Ventura County strawberries and vegetables – grossing about $3400 to Dallas, $6700 to New York City

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Shipping Updates on Imported Mangoes and California Strawberries for Easter

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DSCN9019Here’s an overview on the soaring volume of imported mangoes, plus a shipping update on California strawberries leading up to Easter.

Since 2005, imported mango shipments  have increased over 75 percent, from 62 million boxes in 2005 to 109 million boxes in 2016.  Once considered an exotic fruit, mangoes are becoming more mainstream now than ever, and visibility continues to increase yearly as more consumers demand them.

Imports of the tommy atkins mango variety and now crossing the border into South Texas (about 250 truck loads a week)  through Nogales, AZ.  Crossings at both areas are increasing as the Mexican mango season ramps up.

Peruvian mango imports have been in a surplus this year, with 50 percent  more of the tropical fruit than the previous season, which is coming to a close.  Besides Mexico, imported fruit has recently started from Guatemala and will get underway from Haiti in April.

Mexican tropical fruit and vegetables crossing the border in South Texas – grossing about $4800 to Boston.

California Strawberry Shipments

If California’s “monsoon” season is finally behind it there is a lot of hope there will be heavy strawberry shipments in the weeks and months ahead.   California strawberry loadings are behind in shipments compared to two years ago, when the season kicked off extremely early for lack of rain.

California strawberry shipments had totaled 5.2 million trays at the by the end of the week of March 11th, down a little from the 6.7 million shipped the same time a year earlier.  However, this was far less than the 12.9 million trays shipped by that time in 2015.

Strawberry shipments set records in 2016, harvesting 196.4 million trays.  Volume for the previous year, despite the early start, was 189.9 million trays.  Total California strawberry shipments this should be similar to 2016.   The state has 36,141 acres this year compared to 36,039 acres last year, while yields continue to increase significantly.

California ships over 87  percent of the strawberries in the U.S.

Ventura County now is gearing up for peak season strawberry shipments.  The Santa Maria got underway in late February and volume has been increasing during March.  The Salinas/Watsonville area is just now getting underway. Peak shipments are expected in time for deliveries leading up to Easter — April 16.

Light volume with Santa Maria strawberries, cauliflower and broccoli shipments – grossing about $5800 to New York City

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In-Transit Challenges, Part I: Modified Atmosphere Makes a Difference

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RichMacleod13Among the most perishable produce items refrigerated haulers transport are berries.  But a produce trucker’s risk of a claims or rejected load at destination is certainly reduced thanks to TransFresh Crop., the widely recognized leader of in-transit, pallet modified atmosphere service.

The Salinas, CA based company, now approaching its 50th year of operation, offers fully automated pallet service systems which tailor the specific atmosphere mixture for each pallet unit.  Benefactors of TransFresh’s  Tectrol® Service Network range from shippers, to truckers, receivers, and ultimately the consumer.  It is a process whereby pallets of berries are sealed with bags and infused with CO2 (carbon dioxide), a process that extends shelf life of the fruit.

Rich Macleod of TransFresh says the Tectrol process continues to dominate the market share in the produce industry, but says there will always be competition.

“If you want the modified atmosphere or the CO2 blanket for your berries at retail, it has got to be sealed and it has got to be at the right (CO2) level,” he states.

TransFresh has a group of technicians conducting inspections at retail operations upon delivery of some loads.

“We are pretty unique in this area.  The driver shouldn’t be too surprised to see a technician standing at the back of his trailer taking readings of the atmosphere,” Macleod says.

Feedback from produce truckers is appreciated by the technicians and those drivers appreciate what is being done, once the process is explained to them, he notes.

Still, there are challenges.   For example, there may be turnover at retail and a new produce buyer may be looking to cut costs, or a new strawberry salesman may be wanting to increase profit margins.  However, Macleod says if part of that decision involves not using the controlled atmosphere bags on the pallet, that retailer is not going to get the pay back he expects.

If you haul California strawberries, perhaps you have noticed some consolidations with some companies and down sizing of operations by others.  Strawberry growers have been faced with increasing production costs and there has been a trend to focus more on growing raspberries, blueberries, etc.

At the same time, Macleod believes a few of the larger berry shippers who have successful marketing programs, appear to be doing quite well. — Bill Martin

(This is Part I in a III-Part series based on an interview with Rich Macleod, vice president, pallet division North America for TransFresh Corp, Salinas, CA.  He has been with the company 40 years and has a masters degree in post harvest science from the University of California, Davis.)


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Western Citrus Freeze Damage Reports a Ways off; Veggies Probably Okay

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IMG_6810We did a report on freezing temperatures in California, as well as Arizona last week, and to be honest there’s not a heck of a lot more to report on how Western produce shipments will be affected.  But in case you missed that other report, here goes – with some additional information.

In California, freezing temperatures occurred for a few nights late last week and through Saturday a.m.  It is known there will freeze damage to mandrians and navel oranges.  How much freeze damage probably will not be known until the first of the year, if not the first week of January.  There also a limited amount of vegetables being grown in the Central San Joaquin Valley, but no word on the veggies either.

The Salinas-Watsonville area had already completed its vegetable and strawberry shipments for the season when the freeze hit.  The Santa Maria area was on the tail end of the strawberry season and the cold quickly ended what product was left.

Strawberry shipments have now shifted to Ventura County.  While the cold may actually be beneficial to the berries in some areas of the county, others located in hilly, higher elevations of the county probably will suffer losses.  We’ll also have to keep an eye on Southern California strawberries, particularly in Orange County.

It also got pretty frosty in the desert areas of California and around Yuma, AZ for desert vegetable shipments.  It is believed items such as head lettuce, leaf lettuce, broccoli and cauliflower will make it okay, although it will not be surprising if it looks a little like it has been in a fight with Mother Nature.

Southern California strawberries, citrus – grossing about $6600 to New York City.

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