USA - Florida saw challenging strawberry season due to weather events

21.03.2024 124 views

It has been a tough Florida strawberry season. "At least tougher than the past few years," says Matthew Giddings with Always Fresh Farms. Due to a cold winter, the season saw a delayed start and production didn't ramp up until the end of February, about three weeks later than normal. "Although there were no hard freezes this winter, it was constantly cold through February and volume was low," Giddings said. "We never got the Valentine's Day flush that we normally have."

Thunderstorm during peak season
Finally, when volumes had built up and were ready to hit the market, Florida got hit by a 24-hour thunderstorm that wiped out a significant part of the strawberry crop right before harvest. "It was peak season and we had set up promotions with many retailers," shared Giddings. "Instead, we ended up throwing away about 70 to 80 percent of the fruit that week." The quality was significantly impacted by the thunderstorm and crews had to strip the fruit and throw it on the ground. "During this time, the industry felt the effects of the cost of labor. We had to clean up a crop without getting any revenues." If this wasn't bad enough, a hailstorm came through ten days later.

However, a week later around February 25, the plants started to show signs of recovery and production slowly came back. In the first week of March, production finally ramped up. Unfortunately, some promotions had already ended by the time the big volume came on and quickly, the market got flooded with strawberries. "We were fortunate some of our retail partners adjusted their promotion window and promoted the fruit during this time of abundant supply. However, even with all the help we received from retailers it wasn't enough to prevent the market from collapsing."

The Florida strawberry season is now past its peak and volumes are coming down. "We will stay in the market to help the southeastern retailers get through Easter before we fully switch to blueberries," Giddings commented. "Hopefully, the next ten days will help Florida finish its strawberry season on a high note and give California a strong start." The industry is looking forward to supply from Santa Maria and Oxnard to come on.

With Easter being early this year, Florida blueberries will miss the Easter window. "The season started late February, but volume is now increasing with peak volumes expected early April." Giddings is excited for the domestic season as the quality is very promising. "We're seeing an increase in acreage of proprietary varieties and varieties from the University of Florida that have excellent characteristics." The Florida deal was started out of a need to fill the market, but over the years it has shifted from being volume-driven to focusing on quality and flavor.

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