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Strawberry growers continue to meet increasing demand






By STEVE BROWN


Capital Press


Americans consumed almost 8 pounds of strawberries per capita in 2012, twice as much as two decades ago, according to the USDA.


Yields have also improved in recent years, from 430 hundredweight per acre in 2004 to 537 hundredweight in 2012. Acres harvested have grown from 51,500 to 56,140 in that span.


California growers account for more than 90 percent of the U.S. crop, harvesting year-round. Carolyn O'Donnell, communications director for the California Strawberry Commission, said growers are turning out about 680 hundredweight on a little over 40,000 acres.


Production is a bit ahead of last year, she said, despite "compromising" weather in Ventura County, where it "got cold and stayed cold." The berries weren't ripening, then they all ripened at once and quality suffered.


Two-thirds of California's crop comes from the Salinas/Placerville area and one-third from Santa Maria, the growing region in northern Santa Barbara County and southern San Luis Obispo County.


"New varieties are producing more fruit per acre," she said, "but a lot depends on the weather between now and the end of the year."


According to USDA's National Agricultural Statistics Service:


* California produced 27.6 million hundredweight in 2012, up from 25.8 million in 2011. Planted acres were up slightly.


* Florida produced 1.8 million, down from 2.5 million in 2011. Growers planted 8,900 acres in 2012, down 1,000.


* Oregon produced 213,000 hundredweight, down from 226,000. Planted acres stayed the same at 2,200.


* North Carolina produced 203,000, up from 195,000. Planted acres stayed the same at 1,600.


* Washington produced 103,000, down from 125,000. Planted acres stayed the same at 1,500.



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