Freezer-bound California Strawberries Priced Higher
California strawberry growers have been making steady deliveries to frozen processors during the last few weeks, according to the Processing Strawberry Advisory Board (PSAB). Volume through April 12, 2014, tipped the scales at 45 million pounds, which is nearly identical to the 2013 figure.
“The good news is that the 2014 pack is of excellent quality and brix. The only issue is the posting price is over 10% higher than last year. With any luck, the opening price will settle to a lower field price once demand is met,” reported Peter Skolnick, president of Monterey, California-headquartered Imperial Frozen Foods, in the company’s online newsletter.
“California agriculture has had issues with labor availability. Higher field pricing might help attract labor to the fields. This remains to be seen,” he continued. “The other issue is the ongoing California drought. March rains have helped a little, but not enough. The 2014 crop of strawberries probably won't be affected, because most of the water is needed for the fall plantings.”
Blueberry growers in Canada are said to be optimistic about the harvest this year, despite the nasty winter. Following a record harvest in 2013, growers on Prince Edward Island are looking ahead to even more success in the years ahead.
Cold Storage Numbers
Inventories of IQF whole strawberries in US coldstores stood at 86 million pounds as of March 31, 2014, compared to more than 96 million pounds on March 31, 2013 – a shortfall of nearly 11 million pounds.
It is significant that blueberry inventory in 2014 is actually lower than last year, pointed out Skolnick. Pricing in 2013 was soft, from the point of view of blueberry growers.
There is a trend toward stronger pricing for high quality frozen blueberries. Raspberry inventory is currently 6,000,000 pounds higher in 2014 than in 2013. Most of that increase is in IQF raspberries. There were 13 million pounds in inventory as of March 31, 2013, and a whopping 20 million pounds as of March 31, 2014 – nearly a 48% increase.
Meanwhile, said Skolnick, “The recent price increases for off-shore raspberries are, in a word, baffling.”