California strawberry grower-shippers expect continued strong demand in the new year, with normal volumes, large sizes and good quality.


During the week of Dec. 21, Watsonville, Calif.-based Well-Pict Inc. was transitioning from its fall to its spring Oxnard, Calif., deal, said Dan Crowley, sales manager.


“Production has lightened up significantly,” Crowley said Dec. 21. “We’ll spend the next ten days walking the spring crop.”


The week of Dec. 21, Watsonville-based California Giant Inc. was sourcing primarily from Mexico and Florida, with Oxnard expected to begin shipping in volume in January, said Cindy Jewell, the company’s marketing director.


January volumes are expected to be similar to last year for Cal Giant, Jewell said. But the company is switching to new varieties that could affect volumes, she said. Those new Oxnard varieties are expected to be more flavorful, Jewell said.


Shipments could be held in check somewhat at the end of December and in early January by expected cold weather, Russ Widerburg, sales manager for Oxnard-based Boskovich Farms Inc., said Dec. 21.


In walkthroughs, however, fruit was in good shape and sizes large, with 12- and 14-counts the norm, Widerburg said.


As is typically the case, Well-Pict’s December and January supplies will be its lowest of the year, Crowley said. Volumes heading into the new year should be similar to last year at the same time, he said.


In the heart of winter, it takes fruit 35 to 40 days to mature, instead of 22 to 24 days in other seasons, Crowley said. The up side is fruit tends to be big and in excellent condition when it takes longer to grow, he said.


On Dec. 22, the U.S. Department of Agriculture reported prices of $26-28 for flats of 12 1-pint baskets of medium and large strawberries from California, down from $33 last year.


On the heels of “very heavy Christmas demand,” Crowley expected demand to hold steady with the lighter January supplies. Well-Pict continues to enjoy brisk movement of its relatively new two-pound high density pack.


Jewell expected brisk movement in January as California volumes ramp up and dieters look for more healthful fare.


Widerburg also expected strong demand heading into the new year.


“Markets are short,” he said. “There’s not a whole lot of fruit right now.”


New fall varieties rolled out this year by Well-Pict were very well received, Crowley said. For the spring crop, though, the company is sticking with its tried-and-true 269 variety, he said.