Strawberry prices look strong for Valentine’s Day

Buyers should expect to have strawberries for Valentine’s Day promotions, but supplies won’t be high enough to offer consumers great deals.

Most California supplies are coming from Ventura County, and a wet winter so far has shipments behind schedule.

“The market has been high this winter with a lack of supplies,” said John Wilkinson, partner in grower-shipper Blazer Wilkinson, Salinas, CA, Jan. 8. “We have rain projected the next 10 days.”

According to the USDA Agricultural Marketing Service, California shipped about 540,000 trays the first week of the year, down from 994,000 the same week last year.

Chris Christian, senior vice president of the California Strawberry Commission, said weather has been cool and wet, but it’s normal for this time of year.

She said growers expect a typical ramp up in production in late February and early March.

“We anticipate record production again this year because of better yields, despite fewer acres,” she said, noting that 2018 was a record production year for California at 224 million crates shipped.

The other two main production areas – Florida and Mexico – have had good weather this winter but smaller volume regardless.

Sue Harrell, Director of Marketing for the Florida Strawberry Growers Association, said supplies have been behind schedule this winter, but shippers expect warmer weather the next two weeks.

“Demand has been good because of low volume, and that means the price has stayed steady,” she said. “Valentine’s Day, depending on the weather, it looks like there will be plenty of fruit the week before and after.”

Wilkinson said weather has been good in Mexico, but volumes have only been about two-thirds as big as normal.

According to USDA, early January prices for flats of 8 1-pound containers were $21 conventional, $31 organic from Oxnard, CA; $22.90 conventional, $34.90 organic from Florida; and $21 conventional, $29 organic on Mexican crossings through Otay Mesa.

January 2018 prices were a little lower for flats of 8 1-pound containers: $17 conventional, $29 organic from Oxnard, CA; $18.90 conventional, $33.90 organic from Florida; and $21 conventional, $27 organic on Mexican crossings through Otay Mesa.

Wilkinson expects the market to stay strong for the next month.

“I don’t anticipate a glut before Valentine’s Day,” he said. “Generally, it’s been pretty good weather here, and weather in Mexico has been good.”

According to USDA, Florida shipments for the season were behind last year, with 3.9 million flats shipped through the first week of January, compared to 4.9 million shipped at the same time in 2018. Mexico crossings are behind last year’s pace with 8.2 million flats shipped compared to 9.9 million at the same time a year ago.

Greg Johnson is Director of Media Development for Blue Book Services Inc.