California strawberry production still on record pace

Tim Hearden/Capital Press Freshly picked strawberries from near Cottonwood, Calif., are shown on a flat. Strawberry production in California is on pace for another record-setting year despite a decline in acreage.

Capital Press

WATSONVILLE, Calif. — As the peak harvest season is in full force, California strawberry production is still on a pace for another record-setting year despite drought conditions and a drop in acreage.

By the end of June, growers had picked roughly 116 million flats of strawberries, up from about 112.2 million last year and 110 million in 2012, according to the California Strawberry Commission.

The uptick in production comes despite fewer acres planted in 2014 and as a lack of torrential storms in the winter has helped yields.

Whether the drought and its resulting water cutbacks will start to hinder production remains to be seen, commission spokeswoman Carolyn O’Donnell said.

For instance, some restrictions have already impeded planting in Ventura County, so industry insiders won’t know until August or September whether the drought will have an impact, O’Donnell said.

“Part of it depends on when the rain starts to come in the fall,” she said of the chances of maintaining the current brisk pace of production.

The 115.9 million trays produced by June 28 is about 6.5 million trays more than had been recorded just a week earlier, according to the commission.

The industry is in its peak season, as all of the state’s major growing regions — around Watsonville, Santa Maria and Oxnard — are producing berries. About 85 percent of the nation’s strawberries come from California, where the berries are a year-round fruit and winter harvests move south with the sun.

The peak should continue through much of July, O’Donnell said.

Strawberry growers in the Golden State have set production records in seven of the last eight years, including 194.9 million trays in 2013. New varieties have produced higher yields, offsetting the drop in acreage from 40,816 last year to 39,073 this year statewide, O’Donnell said.

Online

California Strawberry Commission: http://www.calstrawberry.com

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