California rains a short-term disruption to strawberry season

From Fresh Plaza | 15 December 2022

Overview of strawberries from California in the U.S. market, complemented by charts from Agronometrics. Original published on December 9, 2022. 

Rain in California halted strawberry harvest for some growers in Santa Maria and Oxnard.

Markon Cooperative reports that Santa Maria received more than two inches of rain this past weekend affecting harvest with limited harvesting coming back today. Meanwhile, Oxnard saw 1-1.5 inches of rain which also limited harvesting early in the week.

At Bobalu Berries, Cindy Jewell says recent rains have impacted the fresh volume of strawberries from its fall crop in both regions. “We always know that winter weather patterns can be a factor at this time of year in California so we plan accordingly with strawberries from Mexico to help offset shortfalls,” says Jewell, adding that good quality berries from Mexico are helping strengthen supplies at this time of year.

strawberry volumes by hi 2

Source: USDA Market News via Agronometrics.
(Agronometrics users can view this chart with live updates here)

Harvesting just starting

Bobalu is just beginning to harvest small quantities of fruit in Coachella and expects to start in Oxnard in a similar fashion in the next 10 days or so, weather permitting. “Our quality control team is focused on keeping the fields clean and quality in the box as we work through this short-term disruption,” Jewell says.

This weather event comes at a time when demand is strong for strawberries, an item that often gets added to holiday menus. “This makes the supply situation even more challenging in the short term. Thankfully with our Mexico crossings increasing and the 2023 strawberry crop coming in southern California, we should see more fruit in the marketplace,” says Jewell.

Looking ahead, the rain still could be a factor as California works through the next few months. “Though we need rain in California due to drought conditions so we will just work around it,” adds Jewell.

A rainy upside

That’s what Steve Johnston of G.W. Palmer & Co. Inc. says too. “From last Wednesday onwards, we’ve had a good amount of rain from north to south. Salinas-Watsonville probably got between 2-4 inches of rain in this last storm,” Johnston says. He notes its rainy season starts the first of October and that to date, Watsonville has had 9 1/3 inches of rain since that time which is way ahead of schedule. “We got off to a nice start which is good for the ground. We need it because we’ve been so bone dry in California that this really helps.”

He also hopes that the pattern continues of storms hitting intermittently. “So a few days of rain and then drying out and then rain again–that’s the perfect scenario. All of this bodes well for having a good crop in California for 2023.”

The News in Charts is a collection of stories from the industry complemented by charts from Agronometrics to help better tell their story.

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