Early strawberry harvest leads to local shortage
Farmers and wholesalers say an early season has led to a temporary strawberry shortage
Caught between two harvests, B.C. businesses are having a hard time finding local strawberries.
"It's more about timing than anything else," says Rob Smith from Berry Mobile, a wholesale and retail company that brings B.C. fruit into the Lower Mainland.
His company supplies supermarkets like IGA and Whole Foods but also small businesses like Earnest Ice Cream.
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In a normal year, Smith says they move up and down the Fraser Valley to keep a consistent supply from May to September.
But this year, the June bearing strawberries were ready in May after what farmers describe as unseasonably warm temperatures.
"The first crop this year was done around June 10," said Langley grower Alf Krause.
This is a problem for local wholesalers, but also anyone else looking to get fresh B.C. strawberries.
Local supply isn't the only factor keeping strawberries out of the produce aisle.
This year, California is struggling with the dual spectre of drought and a labour shortage.
"As soon as we have a shortage in strawberries supermarkets will immediately introduce Californian ones." said Smith. "That said, we are seeing some signs of stress."
California's June strawberry output was down nearly 15 per cent over last year. To make matters worse, California became the first foreign producer to gain access to the Chinese market in May
"We're going to have a lot of strawberries, but right now they're pretty scarce," said Smith.
In the meantime, Smith says berrylovers will have to settle for other varieties.
"We're up to our ears in blueberries right now," said Smith. "Next week, it will be blackberries."