The 2023 strawberry season has so far been a variable season for the various world markets. In the Netherlands, the autumn harvest shot up early, causing losses later in the season. This lack of product has driven up prices, the effect of which is being felt by the German market as they await the arrival of strawberries of Greek origin. In France, consumption has fallen at this time of year as consumers become more aware of natural growing seasons. In Italy, strawberry cultivation will increase, while consumption will decrease slightly. Spain is having a difficult season, with a late start and problems requiring plants to be cleared and replanted. Strawberry supplies are tight in North America, because cultivation has yet to start in the southern growing area.
Netherlands: strawberry volumes have decreased significantly
The strawberry season is going a bit strangely, according to a Dutch trader. “For example, the autumn cultivation under glass, which was planted in mid-August, lost its momentum early. This resulted in very large volumes on the market in September and the first week of October, but the volumes have now decreased significantly and I estimate that the Dutch and Belgian cultivation last week was already less than a third of the volume in that week in previous years.”
“This situation had a significant effect on prices. The United Kingdom and Scandinavia had sufficient local product until the second week of October. This put considerable pressure on strawberry prices until that week. Clock prices during that period were around 3 euros per kilo for the large blocks, in 2022 this was still 6-7 euros. From the second of October the tide has turned again. There are continuous shortages on the market and the clock prices have risen from 5 euros in week 42 to 11.50-12, 50 euros last week.”
According to the trader, there is always demand for strawberries in November. “What plays a role in this is that the Netherlands and Belgium are the only suppliers on the European market in October and November. We are also expected to have the first production from Egypt from the end of next week, but this often means that commercial volumes will be reduced a week later. arrive. How the Spanish and Moroccan season will proceed is quite uncertain. Dutch illuminated strawberry cultivation will start from week 48.”
Germany: Dutch strawberries dominate, Greek strawberries coming soon
High-priced greenhouse strawberries from the Netherlands currently dominate the strawberry market. Direct importers expect the first shipments of Greek consignments in a few days. Thanks to the optimal, dry weather in Greece, a good yield is generally expected.
After a late start to the season, domestic strawberries were particularly tasty thanks to their slow ripening and optimal irrigation. Prices remained largely stable, which was also due to the slightly lower harvest volume. There were hardly any surpluses on the market, summarized Simon Schumacher, spokesperson for the board of the Verband Süddeutscher Spargel- und Erdbeeranbauer eV (VSSE), at the end of the main harvest in the open field.
Austria: Almost 20% more strawberries in 2022
The cultivation of strawberries in 2022 amounted to a pleasant 16,900 tons (+19% compared to 2021). The fruit was mainly grown in Lower Austria, Upper Austria and Styria. Strawberries account for 7% of the total yield in commercial fruit growing. The area of strawberries has increased slightly in recent years. In 2016, strawberries were grown on a total of 1,138 hectares, in 2022 on 1,221 hectares. There was also a minimal increase in area of about 1 percent in 2022 compared to the previous year.
France: Belgian strawberries on the market
Belgian strawberries are currently the only origin on the French market. The Egyptian and Moroccan strawberries will arrive in three weeks. On the demand side, the usual cold weather this month is not conducive to consumption, and consumer trends have been changing for several years: consumers, increasingly aware of the “rhythm of the seasons, no longer find it logical to buy strawberries to eat in November”.
Italy: Strawberry cultivation will increase
Strawberry production is expected to increase in southern Italy, especially in Campania and Basilicata. However, in these two regions there is a decrease in the area planted with strawberry plugs, which is not observed in Calabria and Sicily. There is also an increase in organic cultivation.
In Campania, planting for the new season is almost complete. In terms of varieties, more Rossetta strawberries have been planted than last year. Due to weather conditions, some parcels will be delayed by several weeks. It is hoped that this delay will lead to an improvement in product quality. The first limited quantities are expected in mid/end of January.
In Basilicata there are those who have recently finished planting and those who have already started harvesting early strawberries, thanks to the mild weather that seems to have accelerated the growth of the plants and the ripening of the fruits. The Fortuna variety has been picked for a few days. Quantities are still very limited, with small to medium sizes. Despite the high prices (€20-25 per box), demand from Italian and European operators seems satisfactory. The first pallets have also left for Germany.
In the last 12 months (year ending September 2023), almost 17.5 million Italian households purchased strawberries. This figure is lower than in 2021 (19 million households).
Spain: The planting of strawberries in Huelva is not finished yet
A new season starts in Huelva and in the first week of November there are still companies that have not yet finished planting strawberries on their farms. “There are growers who started very late this year, from mid-October, which is late for us,” notes a grower from the province.
“In addition, we have had problems again this year with some plants. With a specific variety we had to dig up entire crops and replant them 14-15 days after planting, which, together with the delay in the delivery of plants, means that we are experiencing problems with some crops will be delayed by a month to a month and a half. In fact, today in our company we are replanting all those plants that were not good enough.”
The replanting has been carried out in a few weeks, during which the long-awaited rain has gone hand in hand with strong gusts of wind on the coast of Huelva causing damage throughout the sector, says. “In Cartaya, Aljaraque, Moguer, Bonares, Lucena… the wind has broken foil greenhouses already set up for raspberries and blueberries; this has caused major losses at structural and crop level.
“The positive,” he says, “is the water that has fallen. Last month it was announced that the 25% reduction in irrigation we already had last year would increase to 50%. The plants are now doing very well with all that rain, but we ask the administration to increase the amount of irrigation to be able to maintain them when the rain stops.”
And we must not forget that strawberries are a strategic crop for Andalusia. Production in the region, which is almost entirely concentrated in Huelva, accounts for 97.1% of the national harvest and 26.1% of EU production, which represents 52.6% of the volume and 48% of the value of European strawberry imports in 2022, according to data from the Junta de Andalucía.
“Personally, I have decided to stop growing 30 hectares, of which 26 with strawberries and 4 with blueberries, because I am afraid that I do not have enough water to grow all the crops. I just hope that the situation improves so that I can can start again next year,” says the operator.
Egypt: Higher prices expected but also 10-15% less areal
The strawberry season in Egypt can start any moment. The government is waiting for better quality of the harvest before giving the green light for exports. According to a grower, everything points to a successful season. He says: “We are getting much more demand for fresh strawberries than normal, especially from Europe.” The same source explains the increase in demand due to bad weather conditions in Morocco and Spain, which created a gap in the market that Egypt will fill.
In contrast, the weather conditions in Egypt have been good for strawberries this season, a clear improvement compared to a difficult season last year. One grower says: “This will translate into better yields and fewer losses, which will compensate for the decrease in area.” The same source estimates the decline in area at around 10-15% due to higher cultivation costs.
In terms of varieties produced, varieties that were on trial last season have been released this season. The grower explains: “Fortuna is still in first place in terms of volume, followed by Sensation and Festival. But there will be more volumes of the Felicity variety, which was on trial last year. Many new American varieties are also currently being tested and are very interesting for growers.”
Finally, prices are expected to rise this season compared to last season due to higher cultivation costs. This applies at least to farm gate prices, as exporters could use the devaluation of the Egyptian pound to stabilize prices.
Morocco: 20-25% less strawberry area
In Morocco, the strawberry industry is coming out of a difficult season marked by bad weather, significant volume losses and demand that simply wasn’t there. A grower says: “Of all the soft fruits, strawberries were the biggest casualty of last season, with the largest volume losses due to temperature fluctuations and also the lowest prices. The costs of growing strawberries are increasing more than those of other soft fruits and the decrease in yield is associated with a decline in profitability.” The same source reported that the strawberry area has decreased by 20-25% this season in favor of other products such as blueberries, avocados and potatoes. As for varieties, there is a trend to replace the Spanish varieties used previously with American varieties that are more resistant to the new climatic conditions.
Competition from Egypt, which has abundant volumes, an easier cultivation model and lower production costs, is pushing Moroccan growers to switch to other berries or develop the frozen strawberry sector, and to focus on local Moroccan market.
In October, the Moroccan Atlantic coast was hit by a violent storm that caused heavy damage to soft fruits and greenhouses, but strawberries were unharmed. One grower said: “There was no impact on strawberries as they are not ready at this time of year. Plants have been lost, but there is still time to make up for the damage. The volume losses over the entire season will therefore be minimal.”
North America: Limited availability of strawberries
Strawberry supplies in North America are currently tight. Picking took place in the northern regions such as Salinas-Watsonville and Santa Maria, but that is now coming to an end. At the same time, strawberry production is increasing in southern growing areas, including Southern California (Oxnard) and Mexico, although it has not yet fully gained momentum. Production is expected to restart in about three weeks, although pickings are limited at this time.
In central Mexico, production will begin in December, but last month’s Hurricane Otis slightly delayed the harvest. The harvest from this region will continue until March.
The quality of the strawberries in particular is closely monitored due to the windy conditions in Oxnard and the hurricane in Mexico – both conditions can bruise and damage the fruit, so packaging is closely monitored and less fruit goes into the packaging.
On the other side of the country, Florida will also start growing strawberries later this month, starting at Thanksgiving.
The demand for strawberries is high, which is typical for this time of year, and also exceeds the supply.
Next week: Overview of the world blueberry market