Earth Eats: Real Food, Green Living

Strawberry Surplus Causes Record-Low Prices…And A Lot Of Waste

The market is flooded with strawberries, causing prices so low farmers find it less expensive to destroy their crops than to harvest, sell, and ship them.

Strawberries

Photo: Lost Albatross (flickr)

Supermarkets around the country are selling strawberries at record-low prices. In some places, shoppers can find strawberries for almost half of their normal price.

Supermarkets around the country are selling strawberries at record-low prices.

NPR reports that in some places, shoppers can find a pound of strawberries for $1.25, almost half of what they normally go for this time of year.

But the cause for shoppers’ delight is also the farmers’ nightmare. A late frost in Florida this spring has caused the state’s strawberry harvest season to overlap with California’s.

So, the market is flooded with strawberries, causing prices to drop so low farmers find it less expensive to destroy their crops than to harvest, sell, and ship them.

Wasting Precious Food

This has angered people who see the farmers’ reaction as a wanton waste of food. Some farmers have received threats and angry emails.

Gary Wishnatzki runs Wish Farms, the main berry supplier in Florida. He pointed out that the strawberry crops need to be pulled out of their fields pronto — whether they have a buyer or not — to make room for melons and other summer crops.

If the strawberry plants stay in the ground too long, he says, this year’s melon crop will suffer, causing an even more severe waste of food.

Practical Solutions

Publix, one of the largest grocery store chains in the region has agreed to help the farmers by selling only Florida strawberries during this difficult period. They are also dropping the resale price to move product more quickly.

Additionally, ABC reports that some farmers are allowing individuals and organizations — like soup kitchens — to come to the farms and harvest the surplus strawberries themselves.

But other farmers prefer to destroy the crops out of concern over liability lawsuits — they say untrained harvesters could get hurt on their land, which would put the farmers at risk for further financial setbacks.

Pick Your Own

If you live in Florida, now is a great opportunity to pick your own strawberries. The Florida Strawberry Growers Association provides a list of U-Pick farms and tips on how to make the most of your harvest.

Megan Meyer

Megan Meyer was in the company of foodies for most of her formative years. She spent all of her teens working at her town's natural food co-op in South Dakota, and later when she moved to Minneapolis, worked as a produce maven for the nation's longest running collectively-managed food co-op. In 2006, she had the distinct pleasure (and pain) of participating the vendanges, or grape harvest, in the Beaujolais terroire of France, where she developed her compulsion to snip off grape clusters wherever they may hang. In the spring of 2008, Megan interned on NPR's Science Desk in Washington, D.C., where she aided in the coverage of science, health and food policy stories. She joined Indiana Public Media in June, 2009.

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