Jan 25, 2024
California, Florida organic strawberries limited but available

As Valentine’s Day approaches, which is a heavy demand holiday for strawberries, there are organic strawberries available — but they are highly priced and in limited volume.

“We will have organic strawberries for Valentine’s Day,” Kyla Oberman, marketing director at California Giant Berry Farms in Watsonville, California, told the Organic Produce Network. “But not in promotable supplies.”

Kyla_Oberman
Oberman

Oberman said California Giant Berry Farms is sourcing strawberries from Florida, Mexico and California, with each district dealing with some weather issues that are normal for this time of year. Florida is ramping up its production with peak shipments expected from mid-February through the end of the month. Florida is predominantly a conventional berry producer, but Oberman said there are a few growers in that region with organic strawberries. Again, volume will be limited but available.

Mexico is in the peak of its volume with solid shipments of both conventional and organic strawberries continuing through March and into April. While California Giant has finished its Mexico organic production, Baja California is still producing organic strawberries at a solid pace, according to other sources.

Oberman said California Giant is also pulling volume from the 2024 spring crop in Oxnard as well as the fall 2023 crop from Santa Maria. Santa Maria is expected to start transitioning to its 2024 crop the first week of February, she said.

Oberman noted that Santa Maria continues to have organic berries from its fall crop and will have continuous supply as it transitions to its spring crop.

Overall, Oberman said the California strawberry deal looks similar to last year, though there is more volume at the beginning of this season than last year because of the rain pattern. She said that in Jan. 2023, California was hit with several atmospheric river storms that significantly limited volume through January and into February. This year, she noted that some rained-upon fruit has been diverted to processors, but the plants are still producing berries and providing supplies for the fresh market.

Oberman estimates that California organic acreage will represent about 15 % of the total volume statewide, with the typical peak coming in April, May and June. For many weeks in those months, total volume tops 8 million trays per week, with organic volume topping 1 million trays. That period will once again be ripe for promotion of organic strawberries.

Hector Aguilar
Aguilar

Hector Aguilera, a buyer for Los Angeles-area organic wholesaler Heath & Lejeune and its Soully Organic label, reported on Jan. 23 that organic strawberry F.O.B. prices were at their peak because of recent rains in Baja California and California.

“Supplies of good fruit are limited,” he said. “There is fruit, but some of it is arriving with defects and a lot of white shoulders.”

He said the F.O.B. price for organic strawberries was in the mid-$30s for a flat. That high price was limiting demand, so Aguilera said he has been able to fill his orders.

“I have had no issues getting product so far this week,” he said, “but it looks like we are going to see a gap for the rest of the week.”

Though supplies are inconsistent, Aguilera said it is not concerning as it is winter when weather typically plays a major role in the supply situation. He expects volume of organic berries to pick up during the last week of January and into February.

According to the California Strawberry Commission’s 2024 acreage report, which was published in December, California’s total planted organic acreage for 2024 will be 4,860, which represents almost 12% of total acreage. This includes both fall 2023 plantings for 2024 winter, spring and summer production as well as forecasted acreage for summer 2024 plantings for fall 2024 production. That represents about an 8% decline in acreage.

— Organic Produce Network


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