U.S.: California strawberry volumes set to pick up after cold, wet weather
California strawberry volumes are expected to pick up in the coming weeks following a relatively slow start to the year due to cold and wet weather.
By the week ending March 30, the state had shipped 13.6 million crates of fresh strawberries. This compares to 15.2 million shipped by the same time last year - when a wet winter delayed harvests - and 21.3 million crates in 2016.
The Oxnard region has supplied the majority of the volume so far, with Santa Maria the second-biggest supplier, according to data from the California Strawberry Commission.
The commission's communications director Carolyn O'Donnell explained the weather always had a big influence on production during this part of the season.
"Last season we had a lot of rain the first few months and that really affected the volume. When we started out this year we didn’t have very much rain, and then we had very cold weather and freezing weather for several days, and then the rain came," she told Fresh Fruit Portal.
"So that’s suppressed the volume, especially into March."
She said there had been some rainfall in northern California late last week, but noted that most of production was currently in the south, where growers have now cleaned up their fields after the wet weather.
"We are expecting to start to pick up within next week or two," she said.
"Orange County and Oxnard growers are in their peak or about their start their peak. Santa Maria will probably be seeing their peak in about three weeks and Watsonville will probably start harvesting volume in about three weeks."
The Watsonville/Salinas area typically produces around half of the state's volumes, last year supplying 102 million crates of California's record 206-million-crate crop.
Asked whether the recent wet and cold weather could have a material impact on the total 2018 crop, O'Donnell said that it might do but total volume will ultimately be dependent on the weather during the rest of the year.
"If we don’t get early rains [in the fall] and it stays relatively mild, the volume could be close to what it was last year," she said.
O'Donnell added that the UC Davis breeding program would be introducing some new varieties to the public domain in the next year or two.
"People are pretty upbeat about the market about the new varieties they're seeing coming out of the breeding program, so they seem o be pretty optimistic about not only the season but subsequent seasons as well."