Florida strawberry crop on schedule

Florida strawberry crop on schedule

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Growers are optimistic about this year’s Florida strawberry crop.

“Right now, everything is looking really good,” Jim Grabowski, director of marketing for Watsonville, Calif.-based Well-Pict Inc., said in mid-October.

“We have vigorous-looking plants out there,” he said. “We’re projecting a good crop out of Florida.”

No fruit was showing at the time, but Grabowski said he expected good sizing on the berries, primarily the radiance variety.

Picking should start in late November or early December, following some weather-related planting delays, he said.

“Growing conditions have been really good,” he said.

The company’s Florida acreage will be down slightly this season, Grabowski said.

Well-Pict grows strawberries in Wimauma, south of Tampa, and will continue to ship mostly 1- and 2-pound clamshells from there until mid- to late March.

Prices should be similar to last year, he said, provided supplies are not interrupted by bad weather.

Florida should have about 10,000 acres of strawberries this season, according to the Dover-based Florida Strawberry Growers Association Inc.

Early plants were blooming in mid-October, so a few berries might be around by early November, said marketing director Sue Harrell.

“We need some cool weather this year for sure,” she said.

Florida temperatures were unusually high during late summer and early fall.

The state will have a few more acres of organic strawberries this season, she said.

Astin Strawberry Exchange LLC, Plant City, Fla., is adding to its organic strawberry acreage as a result of increased demand, said salesman JR Pierce.

Timing for organic berries will be similar to conventional ones, which should start out with light supplies in early November. Significant volume should be reached by early December.

Peak season is late January until mid-March, he said.

“February is our big month,” Pierce said.

The company will boost organic production by up to 40%, he said, while conventional volume will rise by 10%.

“So far the plants look very good,” he said in mid-October.

Astin expects to ship 6 million flats of 1- and 2-pound clamshells this season of the Florida Brilliance, Florida Beauty, Florida Sensation and Florida Radiance varieties, Pierce said.