Apr 8, 2020California growers to ‘harvest every box’ despite COVID-19
The California Strawberry Commission plans to “harvest every box” during the April-May harvests, despite disruption in the marketplace caused by COVID-19.
California blueberry harvests during the same time will also be affected, according to an open letter the commission wrote to its distributors. The April 8 open letter, was signed by California Strawberry Commission (CSC) President Rick Tomlinson and Chairman Hector Gutierrez, who is also a grower.
In the letter, the commission said rather than let the crop rot in the field, it was choosing to “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.”
The commission noted that strawberries are the second-most-consumed fruit that is high in vitamin C – second only to oranges.
Read the full letter below:
Open Letter to Our Partners in the Food Supply Chain:
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