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Commodity Strawberry Profile

By Hayley Boriss, Henrich Brunke and Marcia Kreith, Agricultural Issues Center, University of California, March 2006.

Updated June 2012 by Kimberly L. Morgan, Assistant Professor, Mississippi State University, morgan@agecon.msstate.edu
 

Overview

Over the last two decades, the strawberry industry has have experienced increased rates of consumption of all fruit and vegetables. Strawberries are the fifth most preferred fresh fruit in the United States, behind bananas, apples, oranges and grapes. Expanded domestic supply resulting from yield improvements and year-round availability combined to secure consumer demand. New information on the health benefits of strawberries—antioxidant levels, folate, potassium, vitamin C and fiber content--also stimulated domestic consumption rates.

Production

The United States is the world's largest producer of strawberries, producing nearly 1.3 million metric tons in 2010 and accounting for 30 percent of the total world strawberry production. Fresh-market product form accounted for 81 percent of total production in 2011, with total utilized production exceeding 2.8 billion pounds. In 2010, strawberries were the number one ranked U.S. fruit in terms of value of utilized production, followed by apples, oranges and sweet cherries.

The U.S. strawberry industry is primarily located in the southern and coastal areas in California (38,600 harvested acres in 2010), as strawberry production practices thrive under moderate climates with warm days and low humidity. Florida (8,800 acres) and Oregon (1,900 acres) are the second and third largest strawberry-producing states, respectively. In 2010, average yields per acre were 50.1 pounds and ranged from 67.0 pounds per acre in California to a low of 2.5 pounds per acre in New York. As indicated by this extreme range in average yields, the eastern U.S. strawberry industry is largely represented by small family farms that utilize alternative marketing channels such as you-pick operations, roadside stands and farmers' markets (with the exception of Florida). Overall, California yields per acre have grown from 47,000 pounds in 1990 to 68,000 pounds in 2011, a marked improvement relative to Florida yields, which increased from 22,000 pounds to 25,000 pounds per acre over that same time period.

Notably, 100 percent of Florida’s production is destined for the fresh market, and it is the major producer of the winter strawberries in the United States. As a result of Florida’s winter production, U.S. strawberries have been available in retail outlets every week since the 2004 season. In addition, the adoption of new varieties and integrated production practices, including the annual replanting of nursery-grown transplants to minimize disease, enables the California industry to provide product over a longer marketing season from January through November.

With the increase in production of fresh-market strawberries, the value of production increased due to higher fresh product prices. The total value of U.S. strawberry production in 2011 was $2.4 billion, surpassing the $1.95 billion fresh apple industry value for the first time in 2010. Fresh-market 2011 strawberry production alone totaled $2.2 billion, while the value of processing strawberries was $195 million. California production in 2010 was valued at nearly $1.8 billion. Florida’s total production value, marketed exclusively as fresh market “winter” strawberries, accounted for $362 million.

Adoption of organic strawberry production systems present growers with a profitable alternative marketing channel, with the caveat that pest, disease and weed management must be accomplished through the use of biological or natural controls rather than chemical products. In particular, effective weed management systems must be established to achieve optimal organic yields via non-synthetic methods and/or products. In 2011, California organic strawberry producers harvest 1,636 total acres, down from 1,779 acres in 2010, representing less than four percent of total U.S. acreage.

Exports/Imports

The majority of U.S. strawberry exports are shipped to Canada, and the majority of U.S. imports are sourced from Mexico. The United States exported 279.4 million pounds of fresh strawberries in 2010 valued at $341 million. The leading export destination for fresh strawberries was Canada with 111,210 metric tons (MT) valued at $289 million, followed by Japan with 5,913 MT of fresh strawberries valued at $27 million. Mexico purchased 5,326 MT valued at $11 million. The United States exported 15,520 MT of frozen strawberries in 2010 valued at $26.5 million. Canada was the leading buyer with 8,151 MT valued at $14.3 million. Japan purchased 4,045 MT of frozen strawberries valued at $7.3 million.

In 2011, the United States imported 394.2 million pounds of fresh and frozen strawberries from Mexico, of which 243.5 million pounds (62%) valued at $4.2 million were marketed as fresh product. Thirty-six percent of the total imported volumes arrive in the country during the months of March and April when domestic supplies are limited.

Demand

Grower prices (adjusted for inflation, base year 2005) received for U.S. strawberries have generally remained consistent over the years, ranging from a 1996 low average of $0.473 per pound to a high average of $0.812 in 1973. Prices for processing strawberries are consistently lower than those of the fresh market. In 2011, nominal fresh-market prices for strawberries were $94.40 per hundredweight while processing strawberries were valued at $34.80 per hundredweight. Typically, prices follow a seasonal trend, with lower prices observed during peak the production period of April to June, and higher prices during January and February when domestic supplies are limited to Florida production volumes. On average, California growers received $0.757 per pound, while Florida growers received an average $1.48 per pound in 2010. Terminal average weighted prices paid for organic strawberries ranged from $2.96 to $3.10 per pound over the market window of July 2010 through July 2012.

Per capita availability (fresh weight equivalent) of strawberries averaged 8.71 pounds in 2009. Of that total, fresh strawberry consumption accounted for 7.17 pounds per person, a dramatic increase over the 1970 average per capita consumption of 1.73 pounds. Per capita availability of processed (frozen) strawberries averaged 1.54 pounds per person in 2009.

Increasingly, a substantial portion of the California fresh strawberry harvest is presold through a pre-commitment option between shippers and retailers. This option enables retailers to commit to newspaper advertisements prior to the harvest. Typically, the contracts set a maximum price but are not legally binding and allow renegotiation for price at time of delivery. The extreme perishability gives retailers an edge when negotiating the pre-purchase pricing.

2012 Outlook

The widespread practice of using methyl bromide as a preplant soil fumigant against weeds, nematodes and pathogens for strawberry production and in strawberry nurseries continued to be allowed in 2012 under critical use exemptions to the Montreal Protocol on Substances that Deplete the Ozone Layer (and the U.S. Clean Air Act Amendments of 1990, which implements the Montreal Protocol). Except for critical use exemptions such as the strawberry fruit grown in specific states and California strawberry nurseries exemptions, methyl bromide production and net imports were totally phased out in 2005.

Based on the current lack of technical or economically feasible alternatives, the U.S. Department of State submitted its annual nomination for methyl bromide critical use exemptions to the Ozone Secretariat of the United Nations Environment Programme for review and authorization. In the coming years, growers using fumigants will need to establish buffer zones (ranging from 25 feet to more than one-quarter mile) around treated fields under new safety measures for soil fumigants released spring 2009 by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

With respect to consumer demand, the strawberry industry has succeeded in supplying fresh strawberries to retail markets year-round. As the nation’s highest-valued fresh fruit, growing consumer desires to purchase relatively larger quantities of fresh fruits and vegetables as part of establishing healthy eating habits may result in increased overall demand. California strawberry production has reached a mature market status, as a result of vast yield improvements and season-extension production practices. As denoted by the higher grower prices received in March and April, it appears that there is an opportunity for growth in Mexican strawberry production and imports to the U.S. that arrive in retail markets during these lower domestic production windows.

Organic strawberry production currently represents just four percent of U.S. total acreage, and represents a viable market growth strategy for those growers willing to adopt alternative production methods. Utilization of several new, alternative disease control methods and biological control products that are currently available and approved for use in commercial strawberry production can improve organic yields and strawberry quality. Growers report higher average prices received for organically grown strawberries, and relatively more stable prices over the length of the season. Organically grown products are also sought after by the growing market segment of consumers looking to “buy local” fruits and vegetables direct from the growers.
 

Sources

California Strawberry 2011 Acreage Survey, California Strawberry Commission, 2011.
 

Fruit and Tree Nut Outlook, Economic Research Service (ERS), USDA.

Fruit and Tree Nut Yearbook Spreadsheet Files, ERS, USDA.

Fruit and Vegetable Market News, Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS), USDA.

Global Agricultural Trade System Online (GATS), Foreign Agricultural Service (FAS), USDA.

Noncitrus Fruits and Nuts, National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS), USDA.

The Strawberry Industry, ERS, USDA, 2012 - Annual data on U.S. and State harvested acreage, yield, production, prices, crop value, trade, and per capita use of strawberries. Also includes monthly data on shipments, imports and exports, and world data on production and trade.

U.S. Per Capita Food Availability, ERS, USDA, 2011.

2008 Organic Production Survey, 2007 Census of Agriculture, NASS, USDA, 2010.
 

Links checked September 2013.

 

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