Strawberry shortage hurts farmers just before festival

HILLSBOROUGH COUNTY, Fla. (WFLA) – Plant City strawberry pickers are working like crazy – but that wasn’t the case a few weeks ago.

That’s in large part because of our unseasonably warm weather during the last two months of 2015.

“Strawberries are a winter crop. They need that cold weather. They don’t need it to be that cold but they need just the right amount of cold, and it has just been super hot,” Matt Parke, the operations manager with Parkesdale Farms, said.

That means it’s taking longer for the strawberries to fully bloom, leading to shortages of the fruit. That’s beginning to change with our warmer weather.

“Now it is starting to pick up for the first part of this week, coolers were packed up. People were having to hold off on picking because they couldn’t get the berries out of the coolers fast enough. We have been doing okay over here but industry wide they are hurting,” Parke said.

People at the Florida Strawberry Festival in Plant City expressed concerns. “I was a little concerned. Some of the farmers were telling me that the blooms just weren’t blooming because the weather wasn’t proper,” Davis said.

But Davis has been assured there will be enough strawberries around to keep festival attendees happy. “I think we will have more than enough. Most of the farmers put us on a priority list every morning,” he said.

The people enjoying strawberries at a roadside stand in Plant City say they are willing to pay a little more if they have to.

“When you you can get a good box of berries like this and you know every berry in the box is going to be a dessert than it is absolutely well worth the price,” Jeannie Elliott said after buying several boxes.

While the shortage of strawberries has led to higher prices right now, that should change as more berries hit the market.

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