Agronometrics in Charts: California’s 2024 Strawberry Season is Witnessing a Sweet Turnaround

By Agronometrics | 26 January 2024

In this installment of the ‘Agronometrics In Charts’ series, Sarah Ilyas studies the state of California’s strawberry season. Each week the series looks at a different horticultural commodity, focusing on a specific origin or topic visualizing the market factors that are driving change.

California’s strawberry industry faced a tumultuous 2023, grappling with unpredictable weather conditions and the consequential impacts on crop yields. According to Brad Rubin, the Sector Manager of Wells Fargo Agri-Food Institute, the state’s strawberry crop was “at the mercy of Mother Nature.” The California Strawberry Commission reported a substantial decrease in shipped volume compared to 2022, with many producers forced to discard portions of their crop due to damage caused by torrential rainfall.The supply-demand dynamics were visibly imbalanced in the first half of the year as growers struggled to replant waterlogged fields, resulting in a delayed start to the harvesting season. 

The state, however, has blossomed beyond the challenges faced in 2023. Field workers in the Salinas-Watsonville region are already spotting occasional red berries—a sight unusual for this time of year. Mild temperatures have been a persistent theme, raising the possibility of an earlier harvest in March if the weather trend continues.

strawberry volumes by hi 13

Source: USDA Market News via Agronometrics.

(Agronometrics users can view this chart with live updates here)

Growers in Santa Maria-Oxnard are discussing the potential for an early and robust harvest if the mild El Niño pattern persists throughout the winter and into spring. “If this El Nino pattern of mild temperatures continues for the rest of this winter and going into spring, we could see a good amount of berries coming on earlier than normal overall if we don’t get a cold spell,” says Steve Johnston of G.W. Palmer & Co. Oxnard’s current production of conventional fruit is slated to provide a stable supply of strawberries through the end of May. Likewise, the Santa Maria growing region is ramping up production gradually, with a steady supply of quality conventional and organic fruit spanning the winter and spring months.

strawberry volumes by hi 15

Source: USDA Market News via Agronometrics.

(Agronometrics users can view this chart with live updates here)

Despite the setbacks of 2023, California Giant Berry Farms offers a positive outlook for the upcoming strawberry season. Alan Ediger, Vice President of Sales, acknowledges the industry’s resilience and anticipates a strong spring crop. “Despite the challenges our strawberry crops encountered last year, we, as well as the industry as a whole, have shown resilience. We look forward to a strong spring crop throughout our growing regions this year and will continue to uphold our standards to deliver the best quality available to our customers,” he says. 

Looking back at the events of 2023, plentiful rains in California have inadvertently contributed to the optimism for the 2024 crop. The rains have washed away some of the soil’s salt, creating a healthier growing environment. Johnston predicts a “very big bountiful crop” for California in 2024.

In our ‘In Charts’ series, we work to tell some of the stories that are moving the industry. Feel free to take a look at the other articles by clicking here.

All pricing for domestic US produce represents the spot market at Shipping Point (i.e. packing house/climate controlled warehouse, etc.). For imported fruit, the pricing data represents the spot market at Port of Entry.

You can keep track of the markets daily through Agronometrics, a data visualization tool built to help the industry make sense of the huge amounts of data that professionals need to access to make informed decisions. If you found the information and the charts from this article useful, feel free to visit us at where you can easily access these same graphs, or explore the other 21 commodities we currently track.

Written by Sarah Ilyas

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