After experiencing a late start, Florida strawberry shipments hit promotable volume the week of Dec. 22, about a week later than normal.

While volume in late December and early January was high, buyers should expect a significant slowing of harvesting to begin in mid-January, said Gary Wishnatzki, president and chief executive officer of Plant City, Fla.-based Wish Farms.

“We had that early flush and at this point, we’re over that little early peak,” he said Jan. 5. “I’m not sure what the other regions are experiencing, but our bloom count models indicate Florida volume will probably go into a little slowdown during the next couple of weeks until its builds back up going into the end of the month again.”

Going into Valentine’s Day, retailers should expect bigger volume and ample supplies for promotions, Wishnatzki said.

In early January, prices had fallen from abnormally high early season levels in mid-December when the U.S. Department of Agriculture reported flats of 8 1-pound clamshells medium-large from central Florida selling for $26.90-28.90.

Florida starts strawberry shipments a week lateOn Jan. 5, the USDA reported those flats from central Florida marketing for $8.90-12.90, mostly $9.90-10.90.

Last year in mid-January, the USDA reported those flats fetching $16.90-18.90.

Because of lack of movement, the USDA didn’t report Florida prices in early January 2014.

Dover, Fla.-based BBI Produce Inc., began shipping promotable volume in late December.

Based on Florida, California and Mexico production, early January markets were a little lower than what Florida growers anticipated but movement remains favorable, said Chris Smith, sales manager.

He said overall demand is moderate but retail orders were strong.

“Movement has been good and we have new ads starting,” he said Jan. 5. “We hit them (retailers) hard and we really tried to promote our product for this time period because we knew it would be a time needing promotions and we’ve gotten a lot of good business from it. We’re glad to be back in the strawberry business in a big way.”

Smith said he expects volume to slightly increase in mid-January and build to larger volume for February promotions.

Florida starts strawberry shipments a week lateIn early January, Tom O’Brien, president of the Bradenton, Fla.-based C&D Fruit & Vegetable Co. Inc., said quality is excellent.

However, he described the season as disappointing.

“For the season, the supplies will be here and there will be plenty of good berries to cover the ads, hopefully at profitable prices for both sides,” he said. “It’s been a struggle because volume came on right at Christmas and we had a truck shortage and the ads weren’t ready to break. It was a combination of everything happening all at once, which wasn’t good for us.”

This season, C&D plans to ship 1.3 million flats from 465 acres, similar to last season, O’Brien said.

O’Brien said C&D plans to ship promotable volume through late March while BBI plans to ship through early April, Smith said.