Strawberry spike for Mexico in 2012
Mexico's strawberry industry achieved higher yields and export volumes in the first half of this year, and they could grow further still if producers take heed of government recommendations for new plantation areas.
Secretary of Agriculture, Livestock, Rural Development, Fishing and Food (SAGARPA) statistics show shipments rose by 52% to 127,000 metric tons (MT) during the period, while values almost kept pace rising 48% to US$236 million.
The main export destinations were the U.S. and Canada, while strawberries were also sent to the Netherlands, the U.K. and Belize.
SAGARPA Food and Competitiveness undersecretary Ernesto Fernández Arias, said programs focused on agricultural development and the proper application of production methods had led to a "positive dynamic" for the crop.
These programs helped trigger a 16.6% jump in yields during the first half of 2012 with an average production of 27.89MT per hectare.
Fernández Arias highlighted a 49% year-on-year rise in strawberry export volumes was registered in the 2012 agricultural year, reaching 340,000MT.
The states of Baja California, Michoacán and Guanajuato represent 90% of Mexico's strawberry production, while Fernández Arias pointed to high potential in the states of Puebla, Jalisco and Oaxaca with around 900,000 hectares where the crop could potentially be grown.
Raising consumption to meet volume challenges
Florida Strawberry Growers Association executive director Ted Campbell told www.freshfruitportal.com consumption would need to rise to meet increased volumes, but last year the price was below cost for growers in his state.
"For the short term if you do not increase consumption enough to support a sustainable market, everyone will lose money; every producer will lose money and continue to lose money at the rate they did last year, which is horrible," he said.
"The winter season is a very short opportunity and it’s the only growing opportunity that Florida has. Last year the climate was warm, Mexico had a very large production, Florida had a very large production, and the market return on fruit was well below cost.
"There is ongoing scientific research all the time, we’re constantly investing a tremendous amount of money in improving agricultural production practices. What I'm saying is it’s lopsided as we can improve production faster than we can increase consumption, which is a dangerous road to be on."
He highlighted the association had done a significant amount of work promoting the health and flavor benefits of strawberries to both children and adults, along with a "very big outreach" to the foodservice industry.
"We're finding a lot more opportunity in school lunch menus and things like that, where they’re being made available to kids during the wintertime, and that improves the situation.
"We obviously talk to young and healthy adults about the good that it does – the Vitamin C, the antioxidants, there are so many good attributes out there - but that only goes so far.
"We also have a Chefs Advisory Board, we've done done recipe contests with people to increase different utilizations and recipes; creative chefs have given us some great things we publish to make available to the public, just to come up with new ways to cook and use strawberries, as ingredients and making sauces, appetizers, all kinds of things that aren't the traditional usage."