Global Overview Strawberries
The global strawberry market is very varied at the moment, depending on the country. The European supply is limited, as the cold winter weather in Spain has meant that the production there is lower than usual, and the recently introduced customs regulations in the UK this year as a result of Brexit have lead to long delays for shipments coming into the country. A rainy growing season in China has also slowed the production in this country, with lower yields at the moment as a result, although this is expected to result in an oversupply on the local market sometime soon as the harvest catches up. In North America the demand is currently higher than the supply, and is only expected to increase in the run up to Valentine’s Day next month, as strawberries are traditionally exceptionally popular during this holiday.
Netherlands/Belgium: Limited supply of strawberries from lit cultivation
The supply of Dutch and Belgian strawberries from the lit crop is currently limited, which is normal for the time of year. The price is made depending on the daily available volume. And since that is at a reasonably high level, the strawberries mainly disappear into domestic retail. Export is still reasonably quiet with these prices. The market does have its eyes on the Spanish product, but that supply is not too big at the moment either. The new cultivation has slowed down, according to one cooperative.
Germany: Domestic cultivation on the rise
In Hamburg, scarce batches from Spain fetched considerably higher prices than abundant and apparently unripe Egyptian fruit. In Eastern Germany, demand fell noticeably after the holiday season and the supply from Egypt, Greece, the Netherlands and Turkey was adjusted accordingly. Kilo prices were between € 3.50 and € 16.
The domestic cultivation of greenhouse strawberries is currently on the rise, as evidenced by the steady increase in the area under cultivation. Both at the beginning of the season and in the autumn, greenhouse strawberries are very lucrative in terms of price, partly due to the higher output per m2.
United Kingdom: Good supply from abroad, but Brexit customs changes causing delays
There is good strawberry supply at the moment with fruit coming into the UK from both Spain and Morocco. There is also Egyptian fruit but there have been some quality issues from this location this season. The Moroccan season got off to a slow start back in November but it has now picked up. The Spanish season, which started mid-December, is now well underway and there is plenty of fruit about. It is quite cold in Spain currently with night temperatures dipping to 1 or 2 degrees, but this is offset by lots of sunshine during the day and a full moon at night which is causing a flush at the moment.
The high light levels are producing great quality and good availability which will last for a couple of weeks. Morocco should have a good supply into mid-February. On 1st January the UK introduced new customs regulations in line with Brexit, where everything coming in and going out of the UK has to be cleared at customs, this is leading to long delays while the checks are carried out.One importer said they have had issues on some groupage loads from Morocco. There might be goods from 3 or 4, sometimes even 5, different importers on a lorry, each importer may use a different customs clearance operator so the truck has to go to each one before the fruit can be released. The biggest delay they have had was 5 days and with a load of soft fruit that is just too long.
Italy: Basilicata leading region for acreage
The Italian strawberry campaign started more than a month ago, especially for those fields cultivated with rooted seedlings and early cultivars. The Basilicata region remains the leading one for strawberry acreage, with 1162 hectares today, compared to 998 in the previous season. The harvest of fruits produced by fresh plants has also started a few days ago, with varieties such as Sabrosa-Candonga, Inspire and Rossetta. At the moment, in the cultivation areas, the climate is favorable, with mild and mostly sunny days. Orders and sales prices are also excellent.
According to the statistics, strawberries are among the preferred types of fruit for the Italian families: over 19.2 million families have bought them at least once in the last year ending November 2021, equal to 73.6% of Italian families. The frequency of purchase is important with an average of 6.9 times during the 12 months, while the average expenditure per purchase is close to 3 euros per purchase. On average, for a single purchase, Italian families buy about 700 grams of product.
Spain: Low production due to cold weather, but good quality
January has been a cold month in Spain so far, and the cold weather is delaying the ripening of soft fruits in Huelva, especially strawberries, whose volumes are 20% below the usual average to date. Strawberries prices are therefore higher than last year due to the lack of volumes but supply and demand are balanced, given that January is not usually a month of high demand. The producers are already receiving orders from central and northern European importers for the week before Valentine’s Day, in which the consumption of soft fruit tends to skyrocket, particularly that of strawberries. It is a cold winter this year and volumes could still be scarce by then. According to the representative of the Spanish association that represents the majority of soft fruit production in Spain, the first part of the campaign has been very positive in terms of fruit quality. The markets have congratulated Spanish exporters for that, unlike other years in which there were more difficulties. Growers hope that the development of the fruit will not be affected now by the sudden drops in temperature so they will also be able to obtain a good quality from February on.
South Africa: Good sales and prices for South African strawberries in local season
The local strawberry season, which runs from June until December has ended, but there are still some strawberries being harvested from the cooler part of the Southern Cape. By now however, most consumers will now be buying imported Egyptian strawberries. On the Johannesburg market the average strawberry price is currently R65 (3.74 euros) per kilogram.
A strawberry grower says prices were stable this year, more than usually, particularly during the peak of October. Sales were constantly good.
Strawberry exports from South Africa have been picking up to the Middle East, the Far East and Europe over the past two years and there has recently been expansion in the South African strawberry sector. “Our Western Cape and Eastern Cape suppliers are still in strong with local fruit. The gap of not having local strawberries has gotten smaller and smaller over the years and we pretty much have local supply for 12 months,” according to a South African retailer, who notes that strawberries are being imported from Egypt and Ethiopia at the moment.
China: High prices due to delayed production
Normally, the price of strawberries is at a low level in early January, but this year the price per catty (just over 600 grams) is as high as around 20 yuan. This high price is due to the rainy weather in 2021, resulting in a late ripening period of strawberries and a decline in production. It is expected that in another week, around the Spring Festival at the latest, the price of strawberries will return to a relatively normal level with the arrival of large quantities on the market.
Recently, in the Xinfadi market in Beijing, the average market price of rosy strawberries and creamy strawberries is around 12 yuan, whilst the price of Jiujiu strawberries is more expensive, with an average price of 21 yuan. Compared with half a month ago, the prices of these three varieties have dropped 30% to 40%. But compared with the same period of previous years, strawberries are not cheap at all, especially the Jiujiu strawberries from Dandong, Liaoning Province, for which the price is about 30% higher than last year.The main strawberries in Beijing market are cream strawberries from Shandong and Jiujiu strawberries from Dandong, Liaoning. The price difference between the two is almost double. In recent years, some new varieties of “strawberry world” have also been launched, but due to the difficulty of promotion, the Beijing market has not yet been opened. From the “Fengxiang” strawberry, which had a large market share in the early years, to the “Hongyan” strawberry that has been selling well today, the replacement cycle of the best-selling varieties is generally about seven or eight years.
It is expected that when the strawberries that were delayed are concentrated on the market, the price will be relatively normal, and there will continue to be more product. At that time, the price will decline.
North America: Tight supplies due to high demand
North American strawberry volumes look to be ramping up soon.
One California-based grower-shipper says current supplies of strawberries are tight due to high demand for the fruit. “Volumes in Central Mexico and Florida are expected to continually increase in the coming weeks. We anticipate Mexico and Florida strawberries will peak in time for Valentine’s Day,” she says. That said, current volumes are higher than this time last year by about 15 percent thanks largely to good weather conditions. Right now, the grower-shipper is harvesting strawberries in California out of Oxnard and Santa Maria, as well as out of Florida and Mexico. “Oxnard had its first harvest the first week of the year and will quickly ramp up towards its peak in March. Santa Maria’s spring crop had its first harvest the second week of January and will double in volume week over week through March,” they say. “Our growers in Florida and Mexico are quickly working towards their peak volume periods which will contribute to a majority of our Valentine’s Day pull.”
Another Florida-based grower-shipper says Florida’s strawberry volume also recently tightened up. “We had decent supplies for December. Then last week we started picking down with the cold so we’re all a bit upside down,” he says. “The cool nights slow down the harvest a little bit. We still have warmer days but it’s a little bit overcast, partly cloudy.”
He does add that overall berry yields are expected to be up this year. “Our Brilliance (variety) are picking pretty well and giving good, steady yields on our conventional berries. We have more acreage this year on organic and we’re yielding better on organic as well. The quality has been very nice and the sizing for us has been very good. We’ve been averaging an 18-20 two count on both our Sensation (variety) and our Brilliance.”
Historically supplies of strawberries are tighter at this time of year. “Consumption of strawberries has been strong following the pandemic,” says the California grower-shipper. It is of course also the time when New Year’s resolutions around healthy eating are also underway which also fuels fresh produce demand.
Meeting those tight supplies is “outrageous demand” for Florida berries says the Florida grower-shipper. “We can’t even keep up with the demand. Even though we’re getting better numbers, it’s still very short.”
He adds that while California’s tighter supplies also help boost Florida demand, supply chain issues are also affecting consistent movement of product. “Mexico has also been having quality issues and we haven’t seen a whole lot of volume crossing out of Mexico either. I think it’s a combination of all of that,” he adds.
In addition, Valentine’s Day is also on the horizon, a holiday often associated with strawberries and retailers are also currently planning their holiday buying. “We anticipate a good volume of strawberries for Valentine’s Day and typically see high demand for long-stemmed strawberries around this time of year. Most of our spring crop growing areas will begin ramping up supply to promotable volume at the end of February,” the California grower-shipper adds.
Australia: Opportunities for Australian strawberries on export markets
Australia is in its summer strawberry season, but there have been mixed reports from growers. For one grower, 2021-22 has been a season where they have been able to re-enter strawberry production, after ceasing a few seasons ago due to the drought. But on the consumer front, there has not been the significant drop in prices that has been seen in previous years, where 250-gram punnets were selling for under AU$2. This year, the major supermarkets are retailing for more than $3. This could have also been impacted by the surge in the COVID-19 Omicron variant, with many production and supply chain staff forced out of work due to either contracting the virus or being a ‘close contact’. This has created some shortage of fresh produce at certain locations and orders from growers to be cancelled or reduced.
Meanwhile, an Australian Government grant of nearly $250,000 to Berries Australia Limited will help give the berry industry the tools needed to expand into export markets. In the year ending June 2020, 5,084 tonnes ($42million) of berries were exported from Australia – and 4,678 tonnes ($33.4million) were strawberries. According to a representative from Berries Australia, the project aims to build exporter confidence and grow exports in high-growth markets, such as Singapore, India, Thailand and UAE. “The funding will provide the opportunity for exporters to re-ignite conversations and build relationships with importers and retailers in the target markets. Even if growers are not exporters themselves, they will also benefit as this grant will help grow the pie and boost returns for all growers.”