UC Study estimates cost of growing organic strawberries in the Central Coast

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UC Study estimates cost of growing organic strawberries in the Central Coast

A study released by the UC Davis Department of Agricultural and Resource Economics will provide growers with the estimated cost of growing organic strawberries, which represent approximately 13% of all strawberries produced in California's Central Coast. 

Organic production is defined by USDA'S Organic Foods Production Act of 1990 as a “production system that is managed in accordance with the Act and regulations in this part to respond to site-specific conditions by integrating cultural, biological, and mechanical practices that foster cycling of resources, promote ecological balance, and conserve biodiversity.”

According to UC Cooperative Extension specialist and study co-author Brittney Goodrich, the study can help growers when "applying for production loans, projecting labor costs, securing market arrangements, or understanding costs associated with water and nutrient management and regulatory programs." 

The report is based on a management scenario for a 30-acre farm, of which 27 are for the plantation of organic strawberries and the remaining 3 acres are for irrigation systems, roads, and buildings. 

Strawberries are harvested from April through early October, with peak harvest in June, July, and August. The study accounts for organic strawberries being planted on rolling hills or sloped land, which requires erosion prevention and control measures. 

Sample costs to produce and harvest organic strawberries in Santa Cruz, Monterey, and San Benito Counties are estimated to be over $100,000, with total cultural costs being a little more than $27,600 and harvest costs a little more than $65,700. 

The yield is measured in trays per acre. The average yield for fresh market fruit ranges from 6,000 to 8,000 trays per acre, depending on seasonal growing conditions, the study assumes a yield of 7,000 trays containing eight 1-pound clamshells per acre and a unit price of $1.28 per tray. 

California growers and shippers also have to pay the CSC an assessment per tray for research and marketing activities. The study's assessment is $0.05 per tray, which is split equally between the grower and shipper. Grower cost is therefore estimated at $0.025 per tray. 

Growing costs in the region vary considerably based on weather, production practices, water output, land rent and taxes. 

The net return per acre estimated in the report after taking into consideration the total cost per acre and total cost per tray is $8.55. 

Strawberries in the United States are almost entirely grown in California, the supplier of over 90% of the fruit in the country.

75% of all California strawberries produced each year are harvested for the fresh fruit market, and 25% are frozen for the processed fruit market. The majority of the fruit is for local consumption, but 16% are exported to Canada, Mexico, Japan, and Hong Kong.

Out of 52,700 acres of strawberries in the country, California holds 38,200, the vast majority of them.

Related articles: Precision breeding aims to make better, more resilient strawberries, blackberries

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