May 4, 2023
California strawberries beginning to bounce back
Though organic strawberry production in California remains behind the three-year average because of heavy rain during the first quarter of 2023, April saw a production surge, and volume could spike in May.
Jeff Cardinale, director of communications for the California Strawberry Commission, told Organic Produce Network that during the first three weeks of April, organic strawberry volume doubled from the previous week. During the last week of the month, shippers sent 250,000 cartons to market, marking the best week of the year to date.
“We are about two weeks behind in terms of our peak volume, but we are catching up quickly,” Cardinale said. “It all depends on the weather. If it stays warm and sunny, volume will come on quickly.”
For the year, less than 900,000 trays of strawberries had been marketed through April, compared to about two million during the same period in 2022. Last year, growers put at least 440,000 organic trays into the marketplace each week from the end of April into the second week of September, with the peak shipping week being mid-June with more than one million trays.
This year, the 500,000-tray-per-week level will hit during the second week of May for the first time.
“Across the state, we estimated that 5% of strawberry farms were affected by the flooding, and they did have damage,” Cardinale said. “But 95% of the farms were unaffected, and for those growers the rains were beneficial.”
Cardinale is looking to Mother’s Day, a traditional benchmark event.
“Typically, by Mother’s Day, 95% of the strawberries sold in the U.S. come from California, and that will again be the case this year,” he said.
In other Week 18 news from OPN:
East Coast vegetables continue to bolster erratic West Coast supply. Organic arugula, dandelion, chard and kale are available from Pennsylvania and New Jersey, while lettuces, spinach, radishes and cilantro from those states are supplementing Georgia and California supplies. Organic asparagus is in season in New Jersey, and East Coast organic broccoli production is filling in California gaps.
Organic broccoli rabe will be unavailable in California in May because of quality issues, while broccoli, cauliflower and celery are seeing erratic pricing because of inclement weather, strong demand, light yields and quality issues.
Organic Brussels sprouts and green beans from Mexico remain in steady supply.
Organic strawberry prices have eased with strong harvests from Baja and California. Quality is excellent, with good size and great taste. Georgia organic blueberries will be promotable through the first of May, with good production and outstanding quality. Organic blackberry prices are steady out of Mexico, while organic raspberries will be limited in early May because of low production and light California harvests.
Supply of organic round mangoes from Mexico is expected to increase, though limited trucking availability is making transporting the fruit challenging.
Organic mini watermelons from Mexico are starting to come in with large size and excellent quality. Organic full-size watermelons from Mexico will be available through May with outstanding quality expected.
Prices of organic Washington Gala and Granny Smith apples are rising but should ease with the arrival of imports. Good supply is expected out of Chile and Argentina. Organic Fuji packing has increased, while Cosmic Crisp and Envy supply from Washington is tightening. Honeycrisp supply is getting very tight because of sporadic packing and limited supply, with prices expected to climb in May. Ambrosia apples are finished for the season.