The U.S. Strawberry
Record-high U.S. strawberry production in 1993 and another large crop anticipated in 1994 continue the growth trend that began in the 1970's. California produced nearly 80 percent of the U.S. crop on less than half of the strawberry acreage due to higher output per acre than other States. Grower and retail prices for fresh strawberries usually follow strong seasonal patterns and are below average in April, May, and June. Retail prices for fresh strawberries have kept pace with inflation since 1980, while grower prices have not. Americans are eating more strawberries grown in the United States, and per capita consumption has grown from 3 to 5 pounds since 1970.
Keywords: Strawberry, production, prices, trade, shipments, consumption.
The author would like to thank several individuals outside of USDA who provided information and/or reviewed drafts of the publication: Timothy Crocker, University of Florida; Timothy Cross, Oregon State University; George Faxon, Processing Strawberry Advisory Board of California, and the California Strawberry Commission; Chip Hinton, Florida Strawberry Growers Association; Douglas Shaw, University of California at Davis; and Bernadine Strik, Oregon State University. The efforts of Wynnice P. Napper for layout and graphic design, Linda Hatcher for editorial advice, and USDA reviewers are greatly appreciated..
Washington, DC 20005-4788 January 1995
Size and Structure
Utilization and Price Patterns
The U.S. Strawberry Supply
The U.S. strawberry crop was a record-large 1.4 billion pounds in 1993, up 8 percent from the 1992 crop and 14 percent above the 1988-92 average. Another large crop is anticipated in 1994, continuing the growth trend that began in the 1970's. This report describes the U.S. strawberry industry from 1970 to 1993, and emphasizes changes since the early 1970's that have affected the availability and prices of strawberries. The report compares the cultural practices and marketing seasons of the major producing States of California, Florida, and Oregon, but the most detail is given for California. California produced nearly 80 percent of the 1993 crop on less than half of the strawberry acreage due to higher output per acre than other States.
Americans are eating more strawberries grown in the United States, and per capita consumption has grown from 3 to 5 pounds since 1970. Strawberries were the fourth most valuable fruit produced in the United States in 1993 and, considering only fresh-market fruit, were second only to apples in value. Strawberry crop values have risen more by production gains than by higher prices. Grower and retail prices for fresh strawberries usually follow strong seasonal patterns and are below average in April, May, and June. Retail prices for fresh strawberries have kept pace with inflation since 1980, while grower prices have not.
U.S. strawberry acreage in 1993 was only slightly more than in 1970, but nearly three times as many berries per acre were produced in 1993. More acreage in California, where per acre yields are relatively high, and improved yields in other States raised the U.S. average strawberry yield from 9,800 pounds per harvested acre in 1970 to 27,600 pounds in 1993. California's share of U.S. strawberry production rose from less than 60 percent in the early 1970's to nearly 80 percent in the 1990's, while Florida's share increased from 4 percent to 10 percent. In contrast, Oregon's share of production fell from 14 percent to 5 percent.
California has a longer growing season than other States, and strawberries can be picked nearly every month. The strawberry-growing area extends about 500 miles, from San Diego to San Francisco. The increase in California's per acre strawberry yields resulted from the adoption of an annual planting system that uses soil fumigation to eradicate pests and the development of new strawberry varieties better suited to both the system and California growing conditions.
Data from the 1987 Census of Agriculture (the latest census data available) indicated that California strawberry growers were more specialized than Florida or Oregon growers. Only 22 percent of California strawberry growers also produced vegetables and melons compared with 50-55 percent of Oregon and Florida growers. California and Oregon had both large and small strawberry-producing operations: 37 and 38 percent with crop sales of $100,000 or more and about 25 percent each with sales of $10,000 or less. About half of Florida strawberry growers reported crop sales of $100,000 or more and only 12 percent sales of $10,000 or less.
Most of the U.S. strawberry crop is fresh marketed. In the last 3 years, about 70 percent of California's strawberries, virtually all of Florida's strawberries, and only about 10 percent of Oregon's strawberries were fresh marketed. Since the early 1980's, strawberry shipments from California have increased in all months and more than doubled in July and August. However, production peaks are still evident, with 42 percent of California's 1991-93 fresh strawberry shipments in April and May.
The United States is a major producer and consumer of strawberries. Imports of both fresh and frozen strawberries have declined since 1970, while U.S. consumption grew from 3 to 5 pounds per person between 1970 and 1993. Mexico has supplied nearly 90 percent of U.S. strawberry imports in the last 5 years, and the United States is Mexico's major strawberry export market. Canada and Japan are the main destinations for U.S. exports of fresh and frozen strawberries.
This report describes the U.S. strawberry industry from 1970 through 1993, and emphasizes changes since the early 1970's that have affected the availability and prices of strawberries. Differences between cultural practices and marketing seasons in the major producing States--California, Florida, and Oregon--are emphasized. The most detail is given about strawberry production in California.
Topics include where and how strawberries are grown in the United States; the trends and seasonal patterns of shipments, stocks, and prices; supplies and consumption of fresh and frozen strawberries; and world production and trade of fresh and processed strawberries.
The report contains information from a variety of sources, including the National Agricultural Statistics Service, Agricultural Marketing Service, and Foreign Agricultural Service of the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA); the Bureau of Labor Statistics of the U.S. Department of Labor; the Bureau of the Census of the U.S. Department of Commerce; the California Strawberry Commission; the Processing Strawberry Advisory Board of California; California Agricultural Statistics; the American Frozen Food Institute; and the Food and Agricultural Organization of the United Nations.
Record-High U.S. Strawberry Production
The U.S. strawberry crop was a record-large 1.424 billion pounds in 1993, up 8 percent from 1992 and 14 percent above the 5-year (1988-92) average. The top three strawberry-growing States in 1993 were California, Florida, and Oregon, in that order, as they have been since 1980. Strawberry production has been on an upward trend in California and Florida but declining in Oregon and some other smaller producing States (fig. 1, table 1).
California's 1993 strawberry crop was 1.138 billion pounds, 10 percent more than in 1992, and accounted for 80 percent of total U.S. output. Florida produced 138 million pounds of strawberries in winter 1992/93, down about 2 percent from the record-large 1991/92 crop. Strawberry output in California and Florida continued to rise, up 17 and 6 percent from the 5-year average. Oregon's 1993 strawberry crop was 62 million pounds, up slightly from the prior 2 years but down 13 percent from the 5-year average.
Strawberry production in 10 other States totaled 86 million pounds in 1993, up 6 percent from both the prior year and the 5-year average. New York was responsible for most of that gain, producing a record 23 million pounds in 1993. Strawberry crops in Michigan, Washington, Louisiana, and North Carolina were each 10-12 million pounds, and less than 6 million pounds were produced in Ohio, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, New Jersey, and Arkansas.
Rising Value of Production
The value of the 1993 strawberry crop set an all-time record, $746.6 million, rising for the 4th consecutive year. Strawberries are the fourth most valuable fruit produced in the United States, following grapes, apples, and oranges. Although strawberry crops in the 1990's have been less than half the value of the orange, apple, and grape crops, strawberries were nearly twice the value of pear, grapefruit, and peach production (table 2). Of all fresh-market fruit produced in the United States, strawberries are second only to apples in value. The farm value of fresh-market strawberries averaged $584 million in 1991-93 and oranges $539 million compared with $1.208 billion for fresh apples. The value of U.S.-grown fresh grapes averaged $436 million in 1991-93. More than half of the apples and strawberries grown in the United States go to the higher valued fresh market, while 90 percent of oranges and three-fourths of grapes are processed (table 3).
The value of fresh strawberry production has been growing faster since 1970 than fresh grapes, oranges, or apples. Increased production pushed up annual strawberry crop values more often than did higher prices. The prices received by strawberry growers have not kept up with inflation. However, strawberry production tripled between 1970 and 1993, and the real value of strawberry production (measured in constant 1993 dollars) nearly doubled.
More Strawberries From California and Florida
U.S. strawberry output has been climbing fairly steadily since 1970, with somewhat larger gains in the 1980's, and has become more concentrated in California and Florida. California provided nearly 80 percent of all U.S.- produced strawberries in 1990-92 compared with not quite 60 percent in 1970-72. At the same time, Florida's share of U.S. strawberry production rose from 4 to 10 percent, while production in most other States declined (table 4 and table 5).
Oregon's strawberry output was 10 percent lower in the early 1990's than it had been in the early 1970's. Strawberry production had dropped nearly 50 percent to a low of 34 million pounds in 1978 before rising to 63 million pounds in 1990-92. Oregon provided just 5 percent of U.S. strawberry production in the 1990's compared with 14 percent in 1970-72.
In addition to California, Florida, and Oregon, 20 other States reported strawberry production in the early 1970's and accounted for nearly a fourth of the U.S. crop. Later in the decade, commercial production declined and the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) stopped gathering strawberry data from 10 of the 20 States. The other States still reporting provided just 6 percent of U.S. strawberry crops in 1990-92. As strawberry output in Michigan and Washington declined, their shares of U.S. crops dropped from 5 percent in 1970-72 to 1 percent in 1990-92. However, strawberry output in New York and North Carolina increased, and each State's share of U.S. production remained about 1 percent.
Higher Yields Raised Production
Total harvested strawberry acreage in the United States was up only about 2 percent in 1993 (51,530 acres) compared with 1970 (50,400 acres). Higher average yields were responsible for production gains as acreage shifted to high-yield areas. Between 1970 and 1993, strawberry acreage in California rose from 8,500 to 25,000 acres and in Florida from 1,800 to 5,100 acres. Acreage in most of the other strawberry-growing States (except New York, North Carolina, and Pennsylvania) was lower in 1993 than in 1970 (fig. 2 and fig. 3, table 4 and table 5).
In the early 1970's, Oregon had more acres of strawberries than did California. However, Oregon's acreage declined rapidly during the mid- 1970's and was down from 11,000 acres in 1970 to 5,000 acres in 1978. Increased supplies of frozen berries from Mexico as well as expanding California production brought lower processing prices, and Oregon growers consequently planted less. Strawberry area in Oregon fluctuated during the 1980's, rising to 7,800 acres in 1987-88 before dropping back to 6,200 acres in 1993.
Although total U.S. strawberry acreage was nearly the same in 1993 as in 1970, nearly three times as many strawberries were produced per acre. More acreage in California, where per acre yields are relatively higher, and improved yields in other States raised the U.S. average strawberry yield from 9,800 pounds per harvested acre in 1970 to 27,600 pounds in 1993. California produced nearly 45,500 pounds per acre in 1993, up about one-third from 1970. Florida's strawberry yields more than tripled since 1970, averaging 27,000 pounds per acre in 1993. Oregon's average strawberry yield rose 54 percent from 1970 to 10,000 pounds an acre in 1993.
Higher output per acre enabled California to produce nearly 80 percent of U.S. strawberries on less than half of the U.S. strawberry acreage in 1993. The increase in yields resulted from California's adaptation of its old planting system to an annual planting system that uses soil fumigation to eradicate pests. In addition, the development of new varieties better suited to the system and California growing conditions raised per acre yields and extended the harvest season.
Strawberries are grown as an annual crop in California. Nursery plants are set out in October or November (winter-planting system) and from late-July through September (summer-planting system). Plants are replaced the following year, rather than allowed to bear crops for several years as in some other States. In 1993, less than 16 percent of California's strawberry acreage was second crop.
Several weeks before planting, the soil is fumigated with a combination of methyl bromide and chloropicrin applied under a sealed plastic tarp, which is removed after at least 48 hours. Plants are set by hand into deep, narrow grooves on premoistened beds. Clear polyethylene mulch is applied, usually in November, to warm the soil and increase early plant growth. If bed fumigation is used, plants are set through slits in the plastic, which stays in place until the plants are removed. Florida has adapted its system to match the California system, except black plastic is used, as have other Southeastern States, with some modifications for colder winters.
Strawberries are grown as a perennial crop in the Northwest and most Eastern States. In Oregon, plants are usually set out in April and do not bear fruit until June the following year. Strawberry plants produce for 4 or 5 years in Oregon before being replaced. Yields per acre are lower in Oregon than California, but so are the costs of production since only about one-fourth of the area is replanted each year.
California's 12-month growing season also contributes to higher strawberry yields per acre. Other States have strawberry-growing seasons of about 5 months. A longer season, as well as the extended production cycles of new varieties, allow strawberry plants in California to produce fruit for 6 months or longer, rather than 4 weeks as in other States. Oregon strawberries are picked in June and Florida's strawberries between November and April, but some berries are picked nearly every month in some area of California.
California Strawberry-Growing Areas
California's strawberry-producing regions extend 500 miles from San Diego to San Francisco (fig. 4). The earliest strawberries are from three southern California counties--San Diego, Orange, and Los Angeles. Harvest is from January through May, with fresh-market shipments usually peaking in April (table 6). The Oxnard area, located in Ventura County just north of Los Angeles, provides fresh strawberries from January until June, with deliveries to processors from April to July. In the Santa Maria area, north of Oxnard, picking usually starts in late February and lasts through November. Fresh-market strawberry shipments from Santa Maria usually peak in May, while deliveries to processors are largest during March and April.
California's northernmost strawberry-growing region is south of San Francisco and includes Watsonville and Salinas in Santa Cruz and Monterey Counties and some acreage in Santa Clara, San Benito, and Fresno Counties. Watsonville and Salinas accounted for 42 percent of California strawberry acreage in 1993 (table 6). Shipments from northern areas begin in April, peak in May or June, and continue through November. Deliveries to processors begin in April, but end before the last fresh strawberry shipments.
Most northern California strawberries are fresh marketed, with deliveries to processors amounting to only about 10 percent of 1990-92 shipments. Deliveries to processors accounted for more of the other areas' output: nearly 30 percent of shipments from Santa Maria, 44 percent from Oxnard, and 60 percent from the southernmost counties.
Florida Strawberry-Growing Areas
Hillsborough County is the hub of Florida strawberry production with 90 percent of the planted area. Strawberries are also grown in the adjacent Pasco, Polk, and Manatee Counties, as well as Collier and Dade Counties in south Florida. Most out-of-State shipments come from the Plant City-Dover area in west-central Florida, between Tampa and Orlando (fig. 5).
Oregon Strawberry-Growing Areas
Strawberries are grown in the cool, marine climate west of the Cascade Mountains in the Northwest. Most Oregon berries are from the northern Willamette Valley. Production was reported for eight counties in 1991-93, but Marion and Washington Counties in northwest Oregon accounted for two-thirds of the State's strawberry output. The strawberry-growing area extends north from Oregon through Washington to the Fraser Valley in British Columbia (fig. 6).
California Strawberry Varieties
California's strawberry industry has benefited from the development of new varieties at the University of California and by private companies. Two varieties, Chandler and Selva, which were released by the University of California in the mid-1980's, accounted for nearly three-fourths of California's 1993 strawberry acreage, according to a survey conducted by the California Strawberry Commission (fig. 7).
Chandler has become the most abundant variety, supplanting the once-dominant Douglas variety in the late- 1980's. In 1993, Chandler accounted for 46 percent of all California strawberry acreage. Chandler has higher yields per acre, firmer fruit, and better flavor than Douglas, but a shorter period of peak production. Chandler berries are ready about 2 weeks later than Douglas, with more extreme production peaks in late March and April.
The second most abundant variety in 1993 was Selva, which represented 27 percent of California acreage. Selva produces large, firm berries over an extended time period (6 to 9 months) due to its "day neutral" characteristic, meaning it will continue to flower regardless of day length. Seascape is a recently introduced variety that has a production cycle similar to Selva, with even better flavor, shape, and higher yield per acre. Seascape accounted for 5 percent of California's 1993 acreage.
Pajaro is considered a premium strawberry variety, with symmetrical shape and good color and flavor, but it can be difficult and expensive to grow. Although planted in August in the Salinas area, production doesn't begin until the following April. Pajaro production peaks in May and drops off sharply within a few weeks. Selva and Seascape are planted later (in November) and usually bear fruit earlier than Pajaro. The popularity of Pajaro declined to just 6 percent of California acreage in 1993.
Oso Grande is a firm, large berry, with a steadier production period than Chandler. Suited to warmer climates, Oso is grown from Santa Maria south to San Diego. Introduced in the late 1980's, Oso Grande accounted for 4 percent of 1993 California strawberry area.
In addition to the strawberry varieties just listed that were developed at the University of California and released to the public, private companies have developed new varieties. Driscoll Strawberry Associates, Inc., has several proprietary varieties known for their heart shape, pale color, and high quality. Well-Pict, Inc., developed and grows two private varieties that provide conical, dark red berries with good flavor, aroma, and shelf life at a fairly steady pace from the first of May through October. Proprietary and other varieties were 12 percent of California's 1993 strawberry acreage.
Florida Strawberry Varieties
Two of the most popular varieties grown in Florida, Oso Grande and Selva, were developed at the University of California. A third variety, Sweet Charlie, was recently released by the University of Florida and is gaining ground.
Florida's strawberry season begins in November when Selva, the earliest variety, is usually ready to be picked. Harvest of Oso Grande begins in late December and peaks in March. Selva accounted for 29 percent of Florida's 1993/94 strawberry area, down from 47 percent in 1992/93. Oso Grande was 55 percent of 1993/94 acreage in Florida, up from 45 percent the year before.
Sweet Charlie is an early-fruiting strawberry variety developed for Florida growing conditions. An important quality is its resistance to anthracnose, a fungus disease that thrives in the hot, humid southern climate. Sweet Charlie accounted for 16 percent of Florida acreage in 1993/94, its second year of commercial use, up from 4 percent. Sweet Charlie fills a seasonal gap for Florida growers by ripening after Selva and before Oso Grande.
Oregon Strawberry Varieties
The most popular strawberry variety in Oregon is Totem, which was nearly 80 percent of 1993 acreage. Totem was developed in Canada more than 20 years ago and is especially suited to the northwest climate and processing use. The berries are richly colored throughout, are smaller and more flavorful than some varieties developed for the fresh market, and have a texture better suited to processing. Other strawberry varieties grown in Oregon include Benton (7 percent of 1993 acreage), Sumas, Shuksan, Hood, Ranier, and Redcrest.
Data from the 1987 Census of Agriculture indicated that strawberry growers were quite specialized, growing mainly vegetables and melons as other crops, rented a large share of their cropland, and considered farming their major occupation. Large operations (with crop sales of $100,000 or more) were dominant in Florida. Small operations were more common in Oregon and California, with about 25 percent of the strawberry growers in both States reporting crop sales of less than $10,000. The proportion of operations with sales of at least $500,000 was highest (20 percent of all strawberry-producing operations) in California in 1987.
California Strawberry Producers
According to the 1987 Census, California strawberry-producing operations were mostly in either the largest or the smallest sales category. Twenty-four percent were in the smallest category (crop sales of $10,000 or less) and 20 percent in the largest category (sales of $500,000 or more). The dichotomy was still evident after combining some of the sales classes. Thirty-eight percent had sales of more than $100,000, 36 percent had sales of less than $25,000, and 26 percent had sales of $25,000-$100,000 (midsized).
The largest strawberry-producing farms in California (sales of at least $500,000) had an average 244 acres of cropland, and the smallest (sales of $10,000 or less) averaged 4 acres per farm. Strawberry acreage ranged from an average of 78 acres for the largest farms to 2 acres for the smallest. Much of the land in farms was rented from others: 70 percent for all sizes, 75 percent for the largest, and 41 percent for the smallest.
Most California strawberry growers were full-time farmers: 88 percent of operators considered farming their principal occupation, and only 27 percent reported working 100 days or more off the farm in the 1987 Census of Agriculture.
Only 22 percent of California strawberry growers also produced vegetables and melons, and 14 percent grew fruit and nuts. More large operations (about 30 percent) also grew vegetables and melons, while more small strawberry operations (20 percent) had fruit and nuts. Strawberries accounted for less than one-fourth of the land in farms reported by California strawberry producers, but provided nearly half of their commodity sales in 1987. Vegetables and melons accounted for more acreage, but less revenue.
Florida Strawberry Producers
Unlike in California, strawberries are not grown year round in Florida, so 55 percent of Florida's strawberry growers also produced vegetables and melons and 14 percent grew fruit and nuts. Strawberries accounted for just 14 percent of the land in farms reported by strawberry producers, while vegetables and melons accounted for 36 percent of land and over half of all commodity sales in 1987.
The largest strawberry-producing operations (with crop sales of $500,000 or more) in Florida averaged 394 acres of farmland, and the smallest (sales of $10,000 or less) averaged 3 acres per farm. Strawberry acreage ranged from an average of 50 acres for the largest to 2 acres for the smallest. Fifty-five percent of the land in farms was rented. About 80 percent of the largest growers rented land and 25 percent of the smallest.
Most Florida strawberry growers were full-time farmers: 75 percent of operators considered farming their principal occupation, and just one-third reported working 100 days or more off the farm in 1987. According to the 1987 Census, 51 percent of Florida strawberry-producing operations had sales of at least $100,000, 20 percent had sales less than $25,000, and 29 percent were midsized (from $25,000 to $100,000). Florida had fewer operations in the largest and smallest sales categories than did California; 12 percent had crop sales of $10,000 or less and 11 percent had sales of $500,000 or more.
Oregon Strawberry Producers
Oregon growers were less specialized than California growers and were more likely to produce other types of berries than were Florida growers. According to the 1987 Census, nearly 50 percent of Oregon's strawberry growers also produced vegetables and melons and 29 percent grew fruit and nuts. Strawberries accounted for just 10 percent of harvested cropland reported by strawberry producers; other berries accounted for 6 percent of cropland, while vegetables and melons accounted for 30 percent. Fruit, nuts, and berries provided more than half of all commodity sales from Oregon strawberry growers in 1987.
The largest strawberry-producing farms in Oregon (with crop sales of $500,000 or more) averaged 788 acres of harvested cropland, and the smallest (sales of $10,000 or less) averaged 13 acres. Strawberry acreage ranged from an average 86 acres for the largest farms to 2 acres for the smallest. Fifty-five percent of the land in farms was rented, with 60 percent of strawberry growers reporting some rented land.
Most Oregon strawberry growers were full-time farmers: 75 percent of operators considered farming their principal occupation, but nearly 40 percent reported working 100 days or more off the farm in 1987. According to the 1987 Census, 37 percent of Oregon strawberry-producing operations had sales of at least $100,000, 36 percent had sales less than $25,000, and 28 percent were midsized (from $25,000 to $100,000). Oregon had fewer farms in the largest sales categories--8 percent with sales of $500,000 or more--than did California or Florida, and had more small farms--26 percent with sales of $10,000 or less--than did Florida.
Complete information about the strawberry-growing operations in California, Florida, and Oregon will not be available from the 1992 Census of Agriculture for several months. However, knowledgeable individuals in each State offered some estimates that showed that the number of operations had likely declined since 1987 but that the size distributions were less likely to have changed.
The number of strawberry-producing operations in California has dropped from 831 reported in the 1987 Census of Agriculture to 600-700 in 1994. Florida reported 195 strawberry-producing operations in 1987. Although about 10 large operations provide 80 percent of the State's strawberry crop, there are still many small operations. The nearly 500 strawberry-producing operations in Oregon at the time of 1987 Census of Agriculture has likely dropped to 200-300.
Fresh or Processed: Uses and Prices
Fresh use accounted for nearly 70 percent of the 1993 U.S. strawberry crop with the rest processed (fig. 8). Most processed strawberries are frozen whole (individually quick frozen, IQF) or sliced, with less than 10 percent of recent U.S. strawberry crops used for juice or puree. Frozen berries are packaged for retail sales and sold in bulk to makers of jam and jelly, syrup, juice drinks, ice cream, yogurt, as well as bakery and confectionery products. In 1993, there were 19 strawberry processors in California and about a dozen in Oregon.
Standards for freezer berries are less stringent than for the fresh market, and costs of packing and selling are lower. However, grower prices for fresh-market strawberries are typically twice as high as processing prices. There are some price differences among States. Since 1987, California fresh-market strawberry prices have been appreciably lower than other States, averaging 53 cents a pound. Florida and Oregon prices averaged 66 cents and 63 cents a pound (fig. 9, table 7). Average California prices were pushed down by the high volume and nearly steady supply from early spring until fall.
California's processing prices were lower and less volatile than Oregon's (fig. 10). Freezer berry prices averaged 23-26 cents a pound in California since 1987, while Oregon's ranged from 29 to 50 cents a pound. Oregon's strawberries are premium processing berries, which bring a higher processing price than those grown for the Fresh market in California and sold to processors. Weather-related production changes likely underlie most of Oregon's annual price fluctuations, but frozen strawberry stock levels and the availability of California berries also affect processing prices.
In the last 3 years, about 70 percent of California's strawberries and virtually all of Florida's strawberries were fresh marketed. Only about 10 percent of Oregon strawberries were fresh marketed. The other States provided mostly fresh-market strawberries to local markets. All strawberry-growing States have direct sales of fresh berries through farmers' markets, roadside stands, and pick-your-own operations.
Nearly three times more strawberries are packaged and sold fresh than 20 years ago. In the early 1970's, about 325 million pounds of U.S.-grown strawberries were fresh marketed each year compared with about 950 million pounds annually in 1990-93. As total strawberry production rose, processed use climbed from about 165 million pounds to 390 million pounds in the 1990's. Fresh use has increased more than processing as the cultivation of varieties that travel better and improved handling techniques have brought more high-quality berries to retail markets. Processing is a secondary use for California strawberries and increases as peak harvest brings fresh prices down.
Increased production in Florida, where most strawberries are fresh marketed, raised the national proportion of fresh use. In 1970-72, just 65 percent of U.S. strawberry crops were fresh marketed compared with 72 percent in 1991-93. Proportions of fresh and processed use within the States have not changed markedly. More California strawberries have gone to processors, nearly 30 percent of recent crops compared with 23 percent in 1970-72. Oregon processing declined from 96 percent of 1970-72 strawberry crops to 90 percent in 1990-92.
Fresh-Market Strawberry Shipment Patterns
Some fresh strawberries are shipped in the United States every month, but April and May are the peak months (fig. 11). According to USDA's Agricultural Marketing Service, California was the source of 89 percent of U.S. fresh strawberry shipments in 1991-93. Each month since January 1989, at least 1 million pounds of strawberries have been shipped from California (table 8).
California strawberry shipments have increased in all months, and more than doubled in July and August, since 1980. The development of varieties with longer production cycles and more acreage in the northern areas have extended California marketings through the summer. However, a strong seasonal shipment pattern resulting from production peaks is stir evident. In 1991-93, about 90 percent of California's fresh strawberries were shipped between March and September, with 42 percent in April and May.
Strawberries are a winter crop in Florida. November through May is the usual Florida strawberry-marketing season, with peak shipments in March. In 1991-93, 42 percent of Florida's shipments were in March, 20 percent in February, and 16 percent in January. Only about 2 percent of Florida's strawberries were shipped in December 10 years ago compared with 8 percent recently. New varieties and modifications of cultural practices made possible more shipments in November and December, when prices are higher.
Shipments of strawberries from Mexico into the United States amounted to 3 percent of total U.S. shipments in 1991-93. Like Florida, Mexico provides fresh-market strawberries in the winter, although shipments from Mexico continue into June. Over 40 percent of Mexico's 1991-93 strawberry shipments to the United States were in March and April. Most of Mexico's strawberry acreage is in the states of Michoacan and Guanajuato in central Mexico, where harvest lasts from November through June. Strawberries in the northern state of Baja California are ready later and are usually picked from January through June. Mexico's strawberry harvest usually peaks in February or March.
Fresh-Market Price Patterns
Grower prices for fresh strawberries exhibit a strong seasonal pattern and are low when shipment volumes are high. During April, May, and June, when more than half of annual strawberry shipments occur, grower prices plummet and usually stay 30-40 percent below the season average price (fig. 12). Grower prices are above average from October through February and highest in November and January, when less than 5 percent of shipments occur (table 9). Retail prices for fresh strawberries follow the same seasonal pattern as grower prices, but with less overall fluctuation (fig. 12). Retail strawberry prices are 5 to 16 percent below the annual average from April through June. When supplies are tighter, prices are generally higher. Retail strawberry prices are the highest in February, 33 percent above average, and 10-15 percent above average in March and September (tables 10, 11, and 12).
Frozen Strawberry Shipments and Stocks
Deliveries of California strawberries to processors (freezers) typically begin in April, with the most deliveries in May and June after peak harvest and when fresh-market prices are seasonally low. Deliveries usually drop off in July, when harvest of most southern California strawberries is finished, but continue into November. Most Oregon strawberries are picked and delivered to processors in June.
Shipments of frozen strawberries are more evenly distributed throughout the year than of the more perishable fresh berries. During the 1990-93 seasons, the movement of frozen strawberries reported by California processors averaged 32 percent of annual shipments in April-June, 26 percent in July-September, 22 percent in October-December, and 20 percent in January-March (table 13). USDA reports the highest frozen strawberry stocks from July through September and the lowest in February and March (fig. 13). Stocks build up from April through July and decline the rest of the year (table 14).
Strawberry Prices and Inflation
Prices that growers receive for fresh-market strawberries have more than doubled since 1970 but have not kept pace with inflation. A price trend line, based on 1970-93 average annual field prices, rose from 27 cents a pound in 1970 to 64 cents in 1993, a 137-percent increase. Grower prices for processed strawberries rose 58 percent, from 19 to 30 cents a pound (fig. 14).
However, annual strawberry price increases were less, on average, than the rise in the general price level, as measured by the gross domestic product (GDP) inflation index. Grower prices for fresh strawberries increased an average 4 percent a year since 1970, while processed strawberry prices rose even less, not quite 2 percent a year. After adjusting for inflation, real grower prices for fresh strawberries were 36 percent lower in 1993 than in 1970 and processing prices were down 57 percent (fig. 15). If prices had kept up with inflation, grower prices for fresh strawberries would have been 87 cents a pound in 1993 and 47 cents a pound for processing.
Technological and biological advances raised productivity in the strawberry industry, and real prices came down. However, productivity gains more than offset the drop in prices and the value of U.S. strawberry production rose from an inflation-adjusted $376 million in 1970 to $747 million in 1993.
Retail prices for fresh strawberries climbed 75 percent from 1980 through 1993, or about 5 percent annually (fig. 16). However, the trend of inflation-adjusted strawberry prices was nearly flat at the retail level, rising less than 4 percent in 14 years. Retail prices reflect costs of packaging, transporting, and marketing, which rose faster than farmgate prices.
Consumption Rose with Production
Americans are eating more strawberries per person than in the early 1970's as a result of increased domestic production (fig. 17). The United States is the leading producer and consumer of strawberries. U.S. imports of fresh strawberries declined from 51 million pounds to 31 million pounds between 1970 and 1993 (fig. 18). During the same period, U.S. imports of frozen strawberries dropped by nearly half, from 110 million to 57 million pounds (fig. 19).
While production of fresh-market strawberries in the United States has tripled since the early 1970's, imports declined from 12 percent of average U.S. supplies in 1970-72 to 3 percent in 1991-93. At the same time, exports became more significant, climbing from 3 percent to 11 percent of supplies. U.S. consumption of fresh strawberries doubled, from an average 1.74 pounds per person in 1970-72 to 3.56 pounds per person in 1991-93 (table 15).
Production of frozen strawberries in the United States increased at a slower pace than fresh, climbing about 85 percent since the early 1970's. As domestic output grew, Frozen strawberry imports dropped, from 34 percent of 1970-72 supplies to 15 percent in 1991-93, and exports grew, from less than 1 percent to 10 percent of supplies. With more production being exported, U.S. consumption of frozen strawberries increased just 5 percent, from an average of 1.36 pounds per person in 1970-72 to 1.43 pounds in 1991-93 (table 16).
U.S. Strawberry Trade with Canada, Japan, and Mexico
The United States provides about 25 percent of the world's strawberries, and trade volume is small compared with the U.S. strawberry supply. The main sources and destinations of strawberries for the United States are Mexico, Canada, and Japan. Mexico has supplied nearly all of U.S. strawberry imports in the last 5 years, and the United States is Mexico's major strawberry export market (fig. 20). Canada and Japan are the main destinations for U.S. exports of fresh and frozen strawberries. And recently, fresh strawberries from California have found a late-summer market in Mexico.
In 1989-93, Mexico provided about 90 percent of U.S. imports of fresh and frozen strawberries (figs. 20 and 21). U.S. imports of fresh strawberries were highest in March and April, during peak harvest in Mexico. In December and January, Colombia, Guatemala, Costa Rica, and New Zealand provided some fresh U.S. strawberry imports. Frozen strawberry imports are usually highest from March through May, when U.S. stocks are relatively low. Sources of frozen strawberries, in addition to Mexico, include Poland, Ecuador, Chile, Costa Rica, and Canada (tables 17 and 18).
Japan was the destination for 67 percent of U.S. frozen strawberry exports in 1989-93, and Canada received 20 percent. Japan does not produce many frozen strawberries, and imports supply the food manufacturing sector. Japan's imports of frozen U.S. strawberries rose about one-third between 1991 and 1993, with the United States providing 55 percent of 1993 imports. Korea, China, and 'Thailand also exported frozen strawberries to Japan. Canada's production of frozen strawberries has declined, and imports have risen. Mexico is now Canada's major source of frozen strawberry imports (table 19).
Canada was the major export market for fresh U.S. strawberries, receiving about 80 percent of 1989-93 exports (fig. 22). Japan, the second most important destination, accounted for less than 10 percent (table 20). Although the United States supplies nearly all of Japan's imported fresh strawberries, imports are usually less than 5 percent of supplies since Japan is a major producer (tables 21, 22, 23). The United States ships small quantities of fresh strawberries to Mexico from July until November, when few Mexican berries are available. Fresh U.S. strawberry exports to Mexico were up about 60 percent in 1993 from the year earlier. Although still a relatively small market for U.S. strawberries, 8 percent of 1993 exports, rising income and failing trade barriers in Mexico have increased the potential for growth.