SALINAS, Calif. — California strawberry production should hit its peak volume of about 7 million flats in mid-June.

That’s less than last year’s peak of about 8 million, but volume throughout the summer will be at or slightly above the three-year average, according to an estimate by the California Strawberry Commission.

Through April 1, California production was about 21 million flats, down from 29 million the year before.

Heavy March rains statewide hit Oxnard — which was in the middle of production — hardest and got spring shipments off to a slow start. Growers hedged their bets on whether summer would see carryover effects.

“My best guess is that it will make for tighter, higher-priced markets in the beginning due to shortfalls of harvest and then, over time, the crop will catch up and start to look like a normal year,” said Doug Ranno, managing partner at Salinas-based Colorful Harvest.

“The big factor that will drive market demand will be a strong process grade market right from the beginning,” Ranno said. “This will also make growers less willing to accept sub-break-even fresh market prices.”

“Spring was two to three weeks behind normal,” said Mark Munger, vice president of marketing at San Diego-based Andrew & Williamson Fresh Produce. “There’s no crystal ball — we can have rain interruptions or heat waves that would force a lot of product to be spaced out into a short time. We don’t see a radical increase in production this year, but we’re optimistic about a solid summer.”

Oxnard’s chances to rebound from the rains were good, Munger said.

“Unfortunately for Oxnard a lot of good fruit was thrown away, but there are a lot of juvenile plants and they’ll recover quickly,” he said.

Such storms, though, tend to result in some misshapen strawberries on fruit maturing four weeks later. Growers won’t pack those, but that means another hit to volume in late April or early May, Munger said.

Such interruptions could create pent-up demand, Ranno said.

“With all of the cold and wet weather we’ve been having, this will be one of the best summers in years to promote berries when the volume does finally come,” he said. “People will be so hungry for berries, sales records will be easy to hit. You should see a lot more multiple SKU sales, 1-pounders and 4-pounders advertised the same week to reach a broader audience and get more sales.”

Other regions shouldn’t be hurt by the rains, Munger said.

“There’s no significant disruption in Santa Maria, and it was way too early to disrupt Watsonville.”