(Sept. 3) Although it has been a record-breaking year in terms of production, the price of California strawberries is increasing.

According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Agricultural Marketing Service, strawberries were $6.90-7.90 for flats of 12 1-pint baskets and flats of eight 1-pound cartons the week of Aug. 25. The first week of September, the price rose to $10.90 for all packages of strawberries; the 1-pound, 2-pound, 4-pound and pints, said Dan Crowley, sales manager Well-Pict Inc., Watsonville, Calif.

The price of California strawberries has been $8.90-10.90 per tray in late August, said Craig Moriyama, vice president of Naturipe Berry Growers, Watsonville, Calif.

Chris Christian, director of product and marketing for the California Strawberry Commission, Watsonville, said pricing has been at normal levels or slightly higher than where they’re supposed to be throughout the year.

During the first week of September 2002, California strawberries were $7.90-8.90, according to the USDA.
Overall, this has been a record-breaking year for strawberry production, said Abby Taylor, communications specialist for the strawberry commission.

As of Aug. 23, 98.1 million trays of California strawberries had been produced, which is 11 million more trays than had been produced at this time last year. By the end of 2002, 101 million trays had been produced, Taylor said.

She also said all districts had an increase in trays produced this year, and acreage increased by 5.2 % statewide as well.

Crowley said shipments were about 10% behind schedule. The summer was unusually warm, which stressed the plants somewhat.

The warm, sunny days are good for sugar, but strawberry plants need the cool nights for firmness. This summer it has been unusually warm at night, Crowley said.

Demand has been good because of the lower production, but not because there’s been a huge rush to buy the berries. If the strawberries were of high quality, then there could be high demand, Moriyama said.

He said the strawberries quality this year was fair but there was nothing outstanding about them. Crowley said that with the exception of a little bruising on arrival, the quality of the strawberries has been nice.

The end of strawberry season in Northern California is coming to an end, Moriyama said. Berries will be available until the first big rain, which could happen anytime. Historically, the season runs through October.

“If it rained a couple of days tomorrow, the season would be over,” he said on Sept. 2. “People are getting ready to look at new areas in Southern California.”

Moriyama said he thinks production in Northern California has been behind this year because a lot of the berries were harvested early.