PLANT CITY, Fla. — Central Florida’s winter strawberry shipments have come to a near halt as growers deal with a week of unusual overnight freezing temperatures.

Prices have increased as the weather has created a demand exceeding supply situation, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

Forecasters predict more nights of freezing temperatures.

Freezes cut Florida strawberry volume and boost prices

Doug Ohlemeier

Thanks to consecutive nights of freezing weather, Florida strawberry shipments have nearly stopped, raising demand and prices. Grower-shippers say the week of freezing temperatures hasn’t harmed product quality but has interfered with pickings.

Though subfreezing temperatures haven’t caused any crop losses yet, grower-shippers say they have slowed pickings to almost a standstill.

Pickings this week have been “almost nothing,” said J.R. Pierce, a salesman for Astin Strawberry Exchange LLC, the sales agency for grower Sam Astin.

Pierce said growers such as Astin are tired, having worked the overnight hours during the last couple of nights protecting their crops by spraying water.

“We haven’t had any major issues,” Pierce said. “Everything has worked well. With multiple days like this, it’s just a slowdown in production. The upcoming days will be the big ones. It’s been pretty cold.”

The USDA on Jan. 4 reported flats of eight 1-pound clamshells of central Florida strawberries selling for $20.90-22 with previous commitments at $12.90-16.90.

The week before, on Dec. 29, the USDA reported lower prices with the flats of clamshells selling for $18.90.

The majority of Florida’s strawberries ship in the clamshells.

Weather forecasters predict more freezing temperatures during the overnight hours of Jan. 5 and through the weekend when temperatures during the overnight hours of Jan. 8-10 are expected to hit the mid- to high 20s.

It’s the longest ongoing period of freezing temperatures growers have experienced in years.

They say they usually get a break between cold fronts that move through the state’s commercial strawberry growing region east of Tampa.