Coastal California rain causes harvest delays

Rain in the Coastal California growing areas is making it tougher for retailers to get strawberries, celery and various greens.

Growers say there’s too much mud in fields most days to harvest, and a dry day seems to be always followed by a wet one.

“We’ve had rain bad for the last week,” said Don Hobson, vice president of sales and marketing for Boskovich Farms Inc., Oxnard, CA, Feb. 5, “and there’s more coming this weekend.”

He said the company hasn’t been able to harvest much except for celery.

Megan Ichimoto, marketing and product development manager for San Miguel Produce, Oxnard, said all its dark leafy greens and bok choy have been affected by the rain.

“It’s been rainy and then muddy, which is difficult to harvest in,” she said Feb. 6. “The cold isn’t helping the plants grow, so yields are down.”

According to USDA’s Agricultural marketing Service, Feb. 5 celery prices remain in the low $30 range from Oxnard, as they have been since they climbed up there in mid-January. Prices are a few dollars lower per carton from the Coachella and Imperial Valleys.

USDA AMS reports kale from Oxnard is $22.95-24.95 per carton. Parsley from Oxnard is around $10 per carton.

Ichimoto said the bad weather in California is contributing to lighter supplies of kale and other greens nationwide, which is raising prices.

Strawberry supplies are being hurt by the rain, Hobson said.

Markon Cooperative Inc., Salinas, CA, reported Feb. 6 that strawberry supplies from Oxnard and Santa Maria are limited with many growers cancelling harvest because of the muddy fields.

Meanwhile, Florida and Mexico weather has been better, as supplies can be found there.

USDA AMS reported Feb. 5 that strawberry prices were $20-22 per flat, but supplies were light due to the weather. Florida prices are $16.90-20.90 per flat, and Mexico crossings through Texas were $18-20 per flat.

Oxnard’s weather forecast calls for highs around 60 with no rain the rest of this week, but rain likely coming again this weekend.

Hobson said the rains are also keeping the company from planting the next crops, so there could be gaps in a few months for a variety of items grown in the region.

Ichimoto also said some flooding in fields caused some recently planted product to be lost.

Greg Johnson is Director of Media Development for Blue Book Services