Local News

Apr 6, 2010 12:12 AM by Monica Quintero

Strawberry prices hurting local growers and helping consumers

You may have noticed, strawberry prices are cheaper than usual. It's good news for consumers and bad news for local growers. One Santa Maria grower said he's been losing thousands of dollars per day for the past two weeks. However, he couldn't give an exact figure. The reason for this is that Florida and California's harvest seasons are overlapping. Cold weather delayed the harvest in Florida and our state's mix of rain and sunshine sped up the harvest of strawberries. So, the two states are flooding the market.

The low prices are helping consumers such as Santa Maria resident Suzanne Bird. Bird said, "I have four kids and we get them as soon as the season starts which is now. We get them at least once a week." But it's hurting strawberry growers such as George Chavez. Chavez said, "Usually this time of year, you're looking at about $1.99 a package, that's on your average." So how much are strawberries? We called one Von's store in Santa Maria. An employee told KSBY News they were running 97-cents for one pound of strawberries. But 2009 was a record breaking year for strawberry growers. In fact, 1.5billion one-pound containers like this we're sold in our state. Chavez is expecting 2010 to be a great year as well. Chavez said, "We're hoping we can pick it back up in the next couple of weeks."

Meanwhile, the 23rd Annual Strawberry Festival is right around the corner. Will the festival be affected? Joe Prengle, Santa Maria Fairpark, said, "We have not seen any vendors cancel because of what's going on with the industry. We may see a few that don't show up but right now we're looking to have a great festival." As for what's in store for strawberry prices, typically that depends on mother nature. To give you a perspective on how California and Florida are overlapping- Florida usually dominates the market in January and February, while California's crop comes in the spring. A representative of Driscoll's, a major California strawberry producer, says a record number of strawberries for this time of year was picked last week. She said 80 million pounds of strawberries were picked nationwide.

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