The unusually cool, wet weather in California this spring delayed the strawberry season by as much as a month. However, despite a slow start, the crop is on pace to match last year’s record-setting production. Crop production, which had been hit with unusual weather, has steadily increased.
Carolyn O’Donnell, Communications Director for the California Strawberry Commission, admits that the weather had an impact on strawberry production. But, she notes, harvesting has picked up quickly. “We were about 11 million trays behind last year’s numbers a few months ago,” she says, “and now, we estimate we’re only 2 million trays behind last year’s production.” A fact that’s all the more astonishing because California strawberries experienced a record-setting production year in 2010.
Aside from a delay in the season, the crop appears to be unaffected in both acreage planted and quality of fruit. Last year, farmers in California planted roughly 37,000 acres of strawberries and this year’s numbers are about the same. Regarding the quality, O’Donnell says, “the quality of berries this year is just great and now that we’re catching up with last year’s numbers, the supply will be there as well.”
That the supply of California strawberries will not drop significantly, despite a delay in the season, is good news for countries which import California strawberries. The main recipients of California’s strawberry exports are Canada, Mexico, Japan and Hong Kong. All together, they imported the bulk of the 246 million pounds of fresh California strawberries which went to the export market in 2010. That represented 15.1% of the total California fresh strawberry crop.
Chris Christian, Vice President of Marketing for the California Strawberry Commission, anticipates this year’s export numbers will be on par with last year’s. “From June onward, production has picked up, so there should not be a significant change in the supply of California strawberries for export.” In fact, she notes that exports to Mexico might increase from last year due to reduced tariffs on produce shipped from the US. Last year, exports of fresh strawberries from California were 215 million pounds for Canada, 11 million pounds for Mexico, 6 million pounds for Japan and 400,000 pounds for Hong Kong.