Apr 6, 2021
Evolving trends pinpointed in the US fresh strawberry market

Average per capita availability of fresh strawberries for 2017-19 was estimated at 6.8 pounds, more than double the average during 2000-02. To keep up with demand, both domestic and foreign supplies increased over time. Since 2000 there have been shifts in relative market shares from sources delivering product to the U.S. fresh strawberry market.

In 2000-02 domestic sources supplied 94% of fresh strawberries to U.S. consumers. Approximately 20 years later (2017-19) over 86% of annual shipments originated domestically with 13.4%  imported.

Fresh strawberry shipments from all sources are seasonal and these patterns have changed. In the United States, fresh strawberries are primarily grown in California, (roughly 90% annually), followed by Florida. California produces strawberries year-round, however the majority of the state’s volume is harvested between March and October. Florida’s strawberry season typically begins in December and goes through March.

With the use of newer varieties, the U.S. strawberry season in both states expanded. Higher-yielding varieties have been in widespread use in California since 2014. Production increased primarily from July to October. In Florida, one of the more popular varieties is Florida Radiance, producing strawberries in the winter and early spring.

Recently, the University of Florida Breeding and Genetic program developed the Florida Brilliance, known for its glossy look, which yields strawberries earlier. With this variety, the Florida strawberry season now begins in November – albeit with relatively small volumes.

Only one U.S. strawberry production area declined from 2000 to 2019 (figure SA2). In the early 2000s, production in California typically began in the southern region (Orange, San Diego, Coachella) and moved up to Central California (Santa Maria and Salinas-Watsonville) as temperatures increased. At that time, Oxnard was a very small production area with shipments of less than half a million pounds. By 2019, production increased in the Oxnard district while it declined in the southern district. Many growers reduced plantings in the southern district due to factors including rising land costs, new commercial developments, and increased early season competition.

In 2019, Oxnard strawberry shipments reached 273 million pounds and in the southern district production declined from over 300 million pounds in 2000 to 5 million pounds in 2019. Oxnard and Southern California regions have similar shipment patterns throughout the year in the winter/spring and fall season and therefore face the same competition from Mexico however land prices are much lower in the Oxnard area.

The United States augments domestic supplies of strawberries by imports, primarily in the winter months. Virtually all U.S. fresh strawberry imports are from Mexico (99%) during the winter and early spring.

Strawberries are produced in two regions of Mexico: Baja, California and Central Mexico (including the states of Michoacán, Guanajuato, Jalisco, and Mexico). Historically, fresh imports from Mexico came from Baja, California. Demand for strawberries in the winter months led to the increase in production in Central Mexico.

In early 2010s, plantings increased in Michoacán due to labor availability and good climate. The introduction of high tunnel structures allowed production to expand rapidly there. In 2019, U.S. fresh strawberry imports from Mexico were a record high (406 million pounds) increasing steadily since 2000, and up 15% from the previous year (figure SA3).

Central Mexico, the major strawberry production area in Mexico, produces mainly in the winter, the same production window as Florida. Therefore, Mexico and Florida directly compete in the winter strawberry market. These shipments also compete with early season California production.

Jaclyn Kramer, USDA, Agricultural Marketing Service

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