Commodity Strawberry Profile
By Hayley Boriss, Henrich Brunke and Marcia Kreith, Agricultural Issues Center, University of California, March 2006.
Updated May 2014 by Linda Naeve, Program Specialist, Iowa State University Extension and Outreach, firstname.lastname@example.org
Over the last two decades, the U.S. strawberry industry has experienced increased rates of consumption at a higher rate than other fruits and vegetables. Strawberries are the fifth most preferred fresh fruit in the United State, behind bananas, apples, watermelon and grapes. Expanded domestic supply resulting from yield improvements and year-round availability combined to secure consumer demand. An increased awareness of the health benefits of strawberries – antioxidant levels, folate, potassium, vitamin C and fiber content – also stimulated domestic consumption.
The United States is the world’s largest producer of strawberries, producing over 36 billion pounds in 2012 and accounting for 29 percent of the total world’s strawberry production. The next highest producing countries are Spain (11 percent), Turkey (7 percent), Egypt (5 percent) and Mexico (5%). Fresh market strawberry fruit accounted for 80 percent of total strawberry production in the U.S. in 2012 of 30.1 billion pounds, valued at $2.2 billion. Processing strawberries accounted for nearly 6 billion pounds in 2012, valued at nearly $200 million.
The U.S. strawberry industry is primarily located in the southern and coastal areas in California where production practices thrive under moderate climates with warm days and low humidity. In 2012, over 38,000 acres of strawberries were harvested in California, up 30 percent from 2000. Florida (10,000 acres) and Oregon (2,000 acres) are the second and third largest strawberry-producing states, respectively. In 2012, average yield per acre were 53,000 pounds per acre and ranged from 72,000 pounds per acre in California to a low of 2,300 in New York. California's 12-month growing season contributes to higher strawberry yields per acre than any other growing area. Other areas of the country have fewer production cycles, from an average of five-months to as short as a few weeks.The wide range in average yields may also be due to the fact that commercial strawberry production in several temperate states is largely grown on small family farms and consists of fresh market sales direct to consumer, such as you-pick operations, roadside stands and farmers' markets. Overall, however, the average yield per acre in the U.S. has consistently increased every year since 2008.
Non-chemical, organic production of strawberries is challenging, and innovations are continually being developed. Organic producers contend with weed, insect, disease and animal pests in different ways than conventional strawberry producers. Human power and biological solutions are often the organic answer to pest problems—using practices such as hand-weeding, the release of beneficial insects, and crop rotation to suppress diseases. Higher labor costs associated with organically grown strawberries often mean higher prices for buyers. In 2011, organic strawberry producers reported harvesting 1,636 acres, a 4 percent increase since 2008, yet only 3 percent of the total U.S. acreage in strawberry production. Strawberries contributed 54% of U.S. farm value sales for all organic berries in 2011. More current information on organic production from the recent USDA Agriculture Census will be available in September, 2014.
Year-round availability of fresh strawberries has significantly influenced their consumption by Americans. They nearly doubled their annual consumption of fresh strawberries since 2002, with per capita consumption rising to almost eight pounds (2012). Annual per capita consumption of frozen strawberries remained consistent at 1.8 pounds in 2012. Although Florida produces about fifteen percent of the nation’s strawberries, it produces nearly all of the berries harvested in the U.S. during the winter months. However, Mexican strawberries also pour into the market during that time. Strawberry imports have risen from 198 billion pounds in 2010 to 302 billion pounds in 2012. Increased production and import of strawberries from Mexico may challenge the future of Florida’s strawberry industry, which showed a decrease in yield from 2011 and 2012.
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 2012 was over $2.4 billion. Fresh market 2012 market production value totaled just over $2.2 billion, while the value of processed strawberries was nearly $199 million.
In 2012, the average monthly price received by growers in the U.S. for fresh strawberries were the highest in December ($2.22/lb) and lowest in July ($0.74/lb). The average grower price for fresh strawberries dropped slightly to $91.20/hundredweight in 2012 from an all-time high of $94.10/hundredweight in 2011. Prices for processing strawberries are consistently lower than those of the fresh market, with farmers receiving an average of $33.40/hundredweight in 2012.
U.S. strawberry producers exported 301,488 million pounds in 2012. Canada received 86 percent of them, followed by Mexico with 7 percent. Mexico’s import of U.S. strawberries dropped 45 percent since 2008. Canada receives the majority of California’s fresh and frozen exports. Approximately 16.3 percent of the fresh California strawberry crop is annual exported. Mexico, Japan, and Hong Kong also are large importers of California strawberries.
The U.S. is not only the leading strawberry producing country, but also the fourth largest importer of fresh strawberries. Fresh imports increased more than three folds during the past 12
years, reaching a record 351.27 million pounds in 2012, up 31percent from 2011. Frozen imports reached 215 million pounds in 2012, up 10 percent from 2011. Mexico is by far the largest supplier providing the majority of total imports. Fresh strawberry imports from Mexico reached 231 million pounds in 2011, accounting for 95% of total volumes imported. It is expected that imports from Mexico will continue to increase as its production expanded quickly in the last few years. Mexican strawberries have overlapping production seasons with Florida with most of Mexican strawberries are produced and imported in winter time. The large supply of strawberries of lower production cost from Mexico is squeezing the margin and market share of Florida strawberries. The competition will further intensify in the coming years as production in Mexico continues to climb.
The drought that plagued California in 2013 is continuing in 2014 and affecting several crops. Industry estimates range from a half-million to 1 million acres of agricultural land in California likely to be affected by the current drought. The state's governor, Jerry Brown, declared a state of emergency in January due to the lack of water. Timothy Richards, professor of agribusiness at Arizona State University believes between 10 and 20 percent of the supply of certain crops from the state could be lost. He estimates retail berry prices will likely rise by 21 to 43 cents per pound in 2014.Growers outside the Western U.S. are likely to offset shortages of strawberries, however, the industry's traditional pattern of drawing supplies from different areas in response to local disruptions such as weather or disease is likely to be tested this time because of the magnitude of the California drought and the state's dominance in the national supply. The drought has been going on for some time, some farmers are fallowing their land, and some may sell. Once they sell that land for something else, we're not going to get it back.
California Strawberry 2011 Acreage Survey, California Strawberry Commission, 2011.
The Strawberry Industry, ERS, USDA, 2012.
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.
U.S. Per Capita Food Availability, ERS, USDA, 2011.
2008 Organic Production Survey, 2007 Census of Agriculture, NASS, USDA, 2010.
Links checked June 2014.