California strawberry industry tallies up storm damage

From Produce Blue Book | 23 January 2023

Overview of strawberries from California in the U.S. market, complemented by charts from Agronometrics. Original published on January 20, 2023. 

WATSONVILLE CA – From Ventura County in Southern California, north through San Luis Obispo and Santa Barbara counties, to Monterey and Santa Cruz counties, the onslaught of rain, wind, and floods are approaching $200 million in potential damages to California’s strawberry farms.

While the majority of family farmers are currently cleaning up minor storm damage, some farms have experienced catastrophic conditions.

strawberry volumes by or 2

Source: USDA Market News via Agronometrics.
(Agronometrics users can view this chart with live updates here)

Erosion has washed away an estimated 350 acres. Another 1,490 acres are awaiting flood waters to recede. In total, 1,840 acres face catastrophic losses that could reach $200 million from crop, property, and equipment damage. The farms at risk for catastrophic losses are as follows:

• Santa Cruz & North Monterey Counties (Pajaro River) – 573 acres
• Monterey County (Salinas River) – 467 acres
• Santa Barbara & San Luis Obispo Counties (Santa Maria River) – 500 acres
• Ventura County – 300 acres

While the economic impact is significant, most strawberry farmers experienced minor storm damage.

“We were fortunate that these storms came at a time when most farms are dormant and thus farm worker jobs have had minimum impact,” said Rick Tomlinson, California Strawberry Commission BB #:153596 President. “We are thankful to the farm workers who have come back to work to help with the recovery.”

For the majority of the 31,852 strawberry acres in California that experienced minimal damage, the rain is a welcome change from the drought.

“The rain washes the soil and improves plant health,” Tomlinson said. “As soon as we get a few weeks of sun, the strawberry plants should recover in time to start harvest in the spring. With improved soil health from the rains, we should have a good season.”

The damage estimates are preliminary, and all farmers have been asked to report damage directly to each county.

The News in Charts is a collection of stories from the industry complemented by charts from Agronometrics to help better tell their story.

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