What began as a sour start to Florida’s strawberry season is ending with a sweet finish, says Matt Parke, farm manager of Parkesdale Farms in Plant City, Florida.
Parke said he wasn’t getting the desired volume before Valentine’s Day. Then it started and hasn’t stopped since.
“I think it’s going to end up being a bumper deal for us. We started off real slow, and I thought our averages were going to be low,” Parke said. “It could be spotty for a grower, just depends on what varieties you planted and what kind of volume you got. It’d be hard for me to say anybody had a bad deal unless they had a big problem with disease,” Parke said.
The main disease was Neopestalotiopsis Fruit Rot, which still took its toll on Florida’s strawberry crop. Even Parke had throw away about 400 flats to the acre during one harvest.
“Regardless of that, I almost matched last year on volume,” Parke said. “I would say this year was a good season as well. For us and the growers I know, everybody’s had a pretty good deal.”
Even more remarkable than the turnaround in volume was the consistent market prices that growers like Parke capitalized on.
“Between Mexico, Florida and California, we were picking 1.5 million (flats) a day and still had an $8 to $10 a deal. That’s weird,” Parke said. “Normally when you pick 1.5 in a deal, you’re looking at a $3 to $4 market. I can tell you on the streets, they were $3 to $4. But if you had a good retail business, you were still getting your $8 and $10.
“Normally, when you think about a market, if you want to hold a market, you don’t want to go for a million flats a day. That’s nationwide. You don’t want to be over a million flats; eight million pounds of fruit a day.”