Cancel OK

California strawberries enter uncertain market

Strawberry marketers face an unprecedented market as supplies transition from Florida and Mexico to California.

Strawberries are one of the biggest spring crops in normal years with demand from all channels, but with the COVID-19 pandemic shutting down foodservice and other outlets, growers are concerned about consumer demand.


Total volume for conventional strawberries is showing a constant downhill trend. This behavior is very similar to the previous two years, as the season ends in two major regions, Florida and Mexico, says Martha Montoya, CEO of Agtools Blue Book has teamed with Agtools Inc., the data analytic service for the produce industry, to look at a handful of crops and how they’re adjusting during the pandemic.

The transition to California production may see less volume than the past two years largely due to weather, with total volume for this period is -14 percent lower (141 million cases) than 2019.


“Florida and Mexico show the expected downward trend starting mid-February with a slight reaction in mid-March for Florida, followed by a steep decline to the end of the season,” Montoya said.

“Mexico production indicates the same trend as Florida. California production began amidst possibly the most difficult time in history. February showed volume increasing with a slight decline mid-March, due to weather, followed by a steady increase and ultimately dropping drastically in the face of the current global uncertainty.”


F.O.B. prices for Oxnard, CA, production in mid-February was below last year. March saw an increase in pricing and peaked March 8th holding steady for a two weeks before the pandemic changed the market and pricing then had a steep decrease, well below 2018.

“Strawberries are not only highly perishable but also highly elastic,” Montoya said. “F.O.B. prices can change drastically very quickly. For now market seems to be holding steady.”

The California Strawberry Commission, BB #:153596 Watsonville, sent an open letter to supply chain partners this week acknowledging the demand challenges as the prime California season begins.

“Our options are few: leave the crop to rot in the field or pick every box and have faith in our supply chain partners to get this important source of vitamins and nutrients into the hands of consumers, through supermarkets, food banks, online, and every other channel available.

“Our choice is clear – harvest every box. We have asked the US Department of Agriculture for assistance and call upon every link in the supply chain to restock shelves and help us preserve over 70,000 jobs related to delivering healthy, nutritious strawberries to consumers, and for all to stay safe.”

Greg Johnson is Director of Media Development for Blue Book Services