John J. VanSickle
Food and Resource Economics Department
Agricultural Experiment Stations
Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences
University of Florida, Gainesville 32611
REC'D JUN 1 71982
Florida Strawberry Production and Marketing Facts
Timothy Taylor and John VanSickle
Note: Senior authorship is not assigned.
Florida Strawberry Production and Marketing Facts
The production and marketing of agricultural commodities promises
to be a changing, and challenging, endeavor during the decade of the
eighties. Vassar P. Shearon and Richard W. Bonney, Jr. of the Columbia
Bank for Cooperatives offered some insight about changes and challenges.
This is a time of changes and challenges. It
isn't that change is something new. It has
always been with us. The difference is that
so much change is taking place at such a rapid
One only need pause and reflect for a moment, to realize just how rapid-
ly changes in the economic environment are occurring now days.
The effects of such rapid changes on agricultural producers are
manifested in the increased risk growers must assume in the face of
increased uncertainties. As a result of such rapid changes in the
general economic environment, many vegetable industries are also rapidly
changing. One such industry is the Florida strawberry industry.
The purpose of this report is to explore the historical production
and pricing patterns for Florida strawberries. Often, it is easier to
know where your going when you look back at where you have been. By
looking at historical production and pricing patterns, valuable informa-
tion can be gained by strawberry producers as they meet the challenges
presented by a rapidly changing environment.
The first section examines recent trends in the Florida strawberry
industry within the context of the U.S. domestic market. Section two
focuses on various trends for the major production areas in Florida.
The third section discusses the current costs and material requirements
for producing and marketing strawberries in central Florida, while
section four presents some preliminary research findings concerning
1Challenges and Changes. 1981 Annual Report Columbia Bank for
Cooperatives March, 1982, p. 3.
Mexican and California competition. Concluding comments are presented
in the final section.
The State of Florida is the only domestic U.S. producer of winter
strawberries. In 1981 Florida harvested 3,200 acres of strawberries
totaling 27.89 million dollars in crop value. The crop value for straw-
berries represented 4.5 percent of the total fresh vegetable income for
Florida in 1981. Florida markets most of its strawberries in the period
from January to April.
California is the major U.S. producer of strawberries, producing
72.9 percent of the total U.S. production in 1981 with only 29.3 percent
of the total U.S. acres. Florida was the second ranking strawberry
producing state with 9.1 percent of the total U.S. production and 8.6
percent of the total U.S. acres. Most of California's strawberries are
marketed in the late spring and summer.
Florida has experienced erratic trends in the production and mar-
keting of strawberries. Figures 1 through 4 show the production and
market trends for Florida since 1955. Table 1 shows the acreage, yield,
production, average value, and total value of strawberries in Florida
from 1970 to 1981. It is evident from the figures and table that
Florida's production of strawberries has increased dramatically in
recent years. Total production of strawberries in Florida has increased
from 1.8 million 12 pound flats in 1977 to 5.6 million 12 pound flats in
1981, an increase of over 200 percent in just 4 years. This increase in
production is the result of both increased acreage and increased
yields. Florida's total acres of strawberries have increased from 1,500
acres in 1977 to 3,200 acres in 1981, an increase of over 100 percent.
Yields have increased from 1200 flats per acre in 1977 to 1750 flats per
acre in 1981, an increase of 45 percent.
The annual average f.o.b. price received by Florida growers was
$4.98 per flat in 1981. This price was approximately the same as that
price received in 1977 when production was substantially lower. The
12 Ib. flats
65 60 65
Figure 1. Florida production of strawberries.
7b 70 80
I lira II I I I I ] I
55 60 65 7-D 75
Figure 2, Florida harvested acres of strawberries.
12 Ib. flats
55 60 65 70 75 80
Figure 3. Florida yield per acre for strawberries.
... 5 5 ,1 I 5 | ,
2.0 55 60 65 7 75 80
Annual average f.o.b. price received for strawberries
produced by Florida growers.
Table 1. Florida strawberry acre4ae, production, and
years 1970 through 19821
value for crop
1000/12 pounds flats Average Total Value
Year Harvested Yield Production Value ($1000)
1970 1800 0.67 1200 $3.53 $ 4,234
1971 1600 0.92 1467 4.19 6,142
1972 1600 1.04 1667 3.79 6,320
1973. 1400 1.12 1575 5.16 8,127
1974 1300 1.13 1467 4.57 6,706
1975 1200 1.37 1650 5.08 8,375
1976 1400 1.25 1750 5.06 8,862
1977 1500 1.20 1817 4.93 8,960
1978 2000 1.20 2416 6.89 16,646
1979 2400 1.33 3200 6.92 22,157
1980 2500 1.58 3958 7.06 27,930
1981 3200 1.75 5600 4.98 27,888
Summary Acreage, Yield, Production and
Crop Reporting Board, ESCS Annual Issues.
average price per flat peaked in 1980 when it reached $7.06. The total
value of the crop also peaked in 1980 when the strawberry crop accounted
for $27.93 million, slightly higher t4an the 1981 crop value of $27.89
Florida strawberry production occurs in three primary areas: north
Florida, centered around Starke and Lawtey; central Florida, centered
around Plant City, and; southeast Florida, located in Dade county. Of
these, the central production area has been the dominant production area
during the 1955 to 1980 period. With the exception of years 1961
through 1967, the central area has accounted for more than 50 percent of
total harvested acres in Florida. Since 1976, about 88 percent of all
harvested acres have been located in the central area.
Total harvested acres of strawberries in Florida have exhibited
considerable variation over the 1955 to 1980 period (Figure 5). During
this period, harvested acres were at a peak of 3,625 acres in 1956 and
reached a low of 1,200 acres in 1975. Within the 1955 to 1975 period
harvested acres dropped rapidly to 1,300 acres in 1960, then increased
sharply to a peak of 3,200 acres in 1965 before once again declining to
the 1975 low. Since 1975 harvested acres have shown a rapid increase.
Harvested acres were estimated at 3,200 acres for the 1981 season.
Figure 5 also illustrates the harvested acreage of strawberries by
production area for the 1955 to 1980 period. The north Florida area has
typically been a relatively small production area. Harvested acres in
the north area ranged from 75 acres in 1955 to 360 in 1965. Since 1972
harvested acreage has ranged from 100 to 200 acres. Harvested acres in
the central area have also shown considerable variation. Figure 5
illustrates that the decline in total Florida harvested acres between
1956 and 1960 was due mostly to a decline in harvested acreage in the
central area. During the 1956 to 1962 period strawberry acreage in
central Florida declined about 80 percent from 3,350 acres harvested in
1956 to only 660 acres in 1962. From 1962 to 1975 harvested acres in
the central area fluctuated considerably with a slight upward trend.
S I -- --Central
1000- \ / ., ,,."/
*500 / \-
O. ...".... ... I
56 60 65 70 75 80
Figure 5. Harvested acres of strawberries by area in Florida.
Beginning in 1975, harvested acres exhibited rapid increases, resulting
in the central area being the current dominant producer of strawberries.
Southeast Florida had a steady increase in harvested acres of
strawberries, going from 100 acres in 1955 to 1,890 acres in 1965.
Since 1965 harvested acreage has declined substantially. Approximately
100 acres of strawberries have been harvested annually in the southeast
area since 1975. Examination of Figure 5 indicates that the increase in
total harvested acres during the 1960 to 1965 period and the ensuing
decline from 1966 to 1975 were largely attributable to the southeast
area. During the period 1961 through 1967 the southeast area became the
major production area, accounting for an average of 53 percent of all
harvested acres annually.
The per acre yield of strawberries has exhibited dramatic increases
in all areas of Florida over the 1955 to 1980 period. Yields in the
north Florida production area have increased steadily from 147 twelve
pound flats per acre in 1955 (Figure 6) to 1,755 flats per acre in
1980. Similar yield increases have been realized in the central and
southeast Florida areas. In the central area yields increased from 148
flats per acre in 1955 to 1,872 flats per acre in 1980. Over the same
period, yields in the southeast area increased from 230 flats per acre
to 1,640 flats per acre.
CENTRAL FLORIDA PRODUCTION CHARACTERISTICS AND COSTS
The following discussion is confined to the central Florida produc-
tion area. This area accounts for approximately 88 percent of the
recent harvested acres.
The Production Cycle
Strawberry production in central Florida is a twelve month opera-
tion. The production season generally begins in May or June with the
planting of a cover crop. The temporal distribution of production
activities from this point are summarized Figure 7. Generally trans-
plants are set in the field in October with harvesting beginning in late
12 Ib. flats
1.0- / at
0.6 '- *
55 60 65 7 7 75 80
Figure 6. Average annual yield of strawberries by area in Florida.
May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct I Nov IDec IJan IFeb Mar Apr
Off season production
Fumigate and lay plastic
Figure 7. Monthly distribution of production activities.
"" .~'...s.~. ~~i:i:::i
........... .. i.
.. ........ ....
"555'2.'.X.:.t:~:~:.X. .-;. :i~ .'.;';';C;;S'
December or early January and continuing through April. Following the
harvest period, fields are disked in preparation for the off season
production of a cover crop at the beginning of the next production
Material Requirements and Production Costs
The production and marketing of strawberries in central Florida is
an expensive undertaking. Total production and marketing costs for the
1980-81 season were estimated to be about $9,000 per acre (Prevatt,
1981). Table 2 presents the material usage and cost per acre for
various production activities.
Examination of Table 2 indicates that setting transplants and the
spray program are the two most costly production activities, accounting
for about 51 percent of all preharvest costs. At the other extreme,
off-season production and land preparation are relatively inexpensive
activities, representing only 3 percent of preharvest costs. Fumiga-
tion, laying plastic, and fertilization account for about 21 percent of
preharvest costs. It should be pointed out that the material usage and
costs are representative of current production practices in central
Florida and do not correspond to any recommended practices or product
Estimated costs and returns for central Florida strawberry produc-
tion for the 1980-81 season are presented in Table 3. The yield of
1,750 flats per acre and average value of $4.98 per flat are the state
averages reported by the Florida Crop and Livestock Reporting Service
(FCLRS, 1982) for 1980-81.
Total preharvest costs were estimated to be $3,000.95 per acre. At
a yield of 1,750 flats per acre, the preharvest cost per flat is
$1.71. Harvest and marketing costs were estimated to be $2.70 per flat
or, $4,725 with a yield of 1,750 flats per acre. The labor intensive
nature of harvesting strawberries accounts for more than half of all
harvest and marketing costs. Fixed ownership costs are relatively small
in comparison to the above costs, being estimated at $1,275 per acre or,
$0.73 per flat at a yield of 1,750 flats per acre.
Table 2. Material requirements ~ad costs for major production activities
for central Florida strawberries, 1980-81.
Activity Quantity Cost per acre
Off Season Production
Lay off rows
Fumigate and Lay Plastic
Plastic (44 inch)
Captan (6 lb/A)
Benlate (1 lb/A)
Dibrom (1 Pt./A)
Plictran (2 Ib/A)
Phosorin (1 Pt./A)
1 times over
1 times over
36 times over
Table 3. Estimated costs and returns for Central
berry production 1980-81
Yield (12 lb. Flats)
Off season production activity
Fumigate and lay plastic
Total pre-harvest costs
Harvest and Marketing Cost
Picking and packing
Total Harvest and Marketing Cost
ownership costs include depreciation, insurance,
taxes,and interest on land and equipment.
Total costs per acre for the 1980-81 season were estimated to be
$9,000. Preharvest costs account for roughly one third of total costs
while harvest and marketing costs represent about 52 percent of total
costs. Fixed costs account for the remaining 15 percent. In general,
the proportion of total costs attributable to each of these categories
depends on yield. As yield increases, harvest and marketing costs
represent a larger proportion of total costs while the proportion of
total costs attributed to preharvest and fixed costs diminishes.
Estimating Breakeven Prices
Estimation of a breakeven price for strawberries, as for any crop,
depends on both yield and total production costs. Several breakeven
prices can be calculated, those being breakeven prices required to cover
preharvest costs, fixed costs, harvest and marketing costs, or total
costs. Each of these breakeven prices are plotted for a range of straw-
berry yields in Figure 8.
The breakeven price necessary to cover any cost equals the cost per
acre divided by the yield per acre. For example, the breakeven price
for covering fixed costs is obtained by dividing estimated fixed costs
per acre by the yield per acre. The estimated 1980-81 breakeven price
required to cover fixed costs was $0.91 per flat for a yield of 1,400
flats per acre and $0.64,per flat for a yield of 2,000 flats per acre.
The breakeven price for covering preharvest costs is obtained by
dividing the estimated preharvest costs per acre by yield. Utilizing
the 1980-81 estimated preharvest cost of $3,000.95 per acre, the break-
even price for a yield of 1,400 flats per acre is $2.14 per flat. With
a yield of 2,000 flats per acre, the estimated breakeven price is $1.50
The breakeven price necessary to cover harvest and marketing costs
is a constant $2.70 per flat. Breakeven costs necessary to cover total
costs can be obtained by adding the breakeven prices for fixed costs,
preharvest costs, and harvest and marketing costs. For example, at a
yield of 1,400 flats per acre, the breakeven price required to cover
total costs is $5.75 ($0.91 + $2.14 + $2.70). Similarly, the breakeven
at 2000 flats/acre
1400 1600 1 800 2000 2200 2400
Figure 8. Breakeven prices for strawberries for fixed, preharvest,
harvest and marketing, and total costs.
price at a yield of 2,000 flats per acre is $4.84 ($0.64 + $1.50 +
Figure 8 demonstrates these calculations for the 1980-81 cost
estimates for a yield of 2,000 flats per acre. Point A correponds to
the breakeven price (0.64) necessary to cover fixed costs. Similarly,
point B corresponds to the breakeven price ($1.50) needed to cover
preharvest costs. The breakeven price needed to cover total costs
($4.84) is represented by point C.
Figure 8 is a useful aid for making decisions about future crops.
Given estimated fixed, preharvest, and harvest and marketing costs, a
grower can calculate his breakeven price required to cover total costs
for a variety of yields. By combining such information with an antici-
pated market price, the grower can estimate his potential profit or loss
for a variety of price and yield combinations. The prices and costs
utilized here however, are average estimates for the central Florida
area. Each grower should rely on his own costs and yield expectations
when estimating his own breakeven prices.
MARKETING CHARACTERISTICS FOR FLORIDA STRAWBERRIES
Although Florida is the major domestic producer of strawberries in
the winter, Florida producers are not assured of receiving a profit for
their product. The price individual producers in Florida receive for
their strawberries depends on the time of the season the product goes to
market. The average weekly f.o.b. price received by producers for the
years from 1970 to 1981 is shown in Figure 9. The season is defined
here as beginning with the first week of December and ending the last
week of April. Included on the graph is the 90 percent lower confidence
bound. The lower confidence bound can be used as an estimate of a price
floor. Given no structural changes in the industry, on average, only 1
time in 10 will the price fall below this lower confidence bound.
It is interesting to note the relative stability of the f.o.b.
prices during the middle part of the season. It is in mid-April when
prices normally begin to fall. Late April to early May is the time of
the season when Florida producers typically end their production season.
90 percent N
I I I I I I I I I I -
5 10 15 20
--- Jan--I- I Feb '-Mar-- Apr--
Week of season (season beginning Dec. 1)
Average weekly f.o.b. price received by Florida growers for
strawberries and the 90 percent lower confidence bound.
Figure 10 gives some indication for the reason Florida strawberries
have had the seasonal pricing pattern shown in Figure 9. For the same
12 year period Mexico was the leading shipper when Florida typically
began production. Although Florida was the only domestic producer of
winter strawberries, Mexico exported a large volume of their crop to the
U.S. Florida competes with Mexico for the available early market in
strawberries. When Mexico's production begins to decrease California
begins shipping large volumes of strawberries. Figure 10 shows that on
average, Florida was never the leading shipper of strawberries. Mexico
typically shipped more strawberries than Florida producers in Florida's
early season and California generally shipped more strawberries in
Florida's late season.
Although Figure 9 indicates that growers received their highest
average f.o.b. price for strawberries in February, many Florida growers
perceive earliness as an essential quality of strawberries. A measure
of earliness [Mahoney] is the amount of yield through January. One
reason Florida producers like to harvest early is to avoid the competi-
tion presented by California strawberry shippers. Mexico is the largest
shipper of strawberries when the volume of U.S. shipments is relatively
light (Figure 11). California is the leading shipper when the volume of
shipments is much larger. Because California's production is so large,
it appears that Florida producers have more profit potential by com-
peting in the early markets. This is supported by the fact that the
average f.o.b. weekly price received by Florida growers declines from a
peak of $5.18 in mid-February to a low of $3.62 in April.
A recent study by Taylor and VanSickle of Florida strawberry pro-
duction analyzed the relationship between prices, harvested acres,
yield, and shipments of strawberries from Florida and other areas com-
peting with Florida. As is indicated by the data, shipments from
California have more influence than Mexican imports in forming the
expected price of Florida producers in succeeding years, and thus in-
fluencing Florida production through planted acres in following years.
50- --Other U.S.
20- // '"' .'
10- ,-" ,
o 10 1' 20 25 '
-Dec-a Jan-i--Feb- --Mar -I -Apr- i- May-
Week of season (season beginning Dec. 1)
Figure 10. The average weekly U.S. market share for strawberries by
origin of shipment.
0 ' T M 2'. ' 1' '' '2' ' '25
-DoO-4 --Jan -Feb I-Mar--I -Apr-i May-
Week of season (season beginning Dec.1)
Figure 11. The average weekly shipments of strawberries in the U.S.
Another finding of the research was that although prices received and
labor costs have played important roles in determining annual average
yield, a large increase in the yields has resulted from technological
improvements in the production process associated with strawberries
(e.g., improved varieties, fertilizers, irrigation practices, freeze
protection practices, etc).
Degner, et. al. studied the direct marketing operations for straw-
berries, specifically pick-your-own and roadside stand operations. Many
strawberry growers convert strawberry fields to pick-your-own operations
at the end of the season. By doing so the growers can salvage saleable
product from the field without incurring the expensive harvest and
marketing costs. The researchers indicate that the returns per hour of
labor invested ranged from $4.00 to nearly $13.50 for pick-your-own
operations. Roadside stands were used by some growers to market a part
or all of their strawberries. The advantages growers perceived for
roadside stands included higher prices and larger profits. The main
disadvantage was the amount of time required to stock and operate the
As Shearon and Bonney have noted, "This is a time of changes and
challenges". Florida strawberry growers have witnessed many changes
occurring in their industry over the last 25 years. These changes are
speeding up however, and growers have a challenge in coping and ad-
justing to these changes.
Growers need to project their cost of producing strawberries and
determine the potential for having a profitable harvest. Growers also
have a responsibility to keep abreast of the marketing trends in the
future. More changes will take place in the industry, and it is the
challenge of the growers to take advantage of them whenever possible.
Degner, Robert L., Lance W. Rodan, and Kary Mathis. Farmer To Consumer
Direct Marketing Of Strawberries in Florida: Producer and Consumer
Benefits. Florida Agricultural Marketing Research Center Industry
Report. No. 82-5, January 1982.
Florida Crop and Livestock Reporting Service. Vegetable Summary.
Florida Agricultural Statistics. Orlando, Florida (Annual Issues).
Mahoney, Michael P. Early Risers. Citrus and Vegetable Magazine.
Prevatt, J.W. 1981. "Florida Strawberry Production Costs." Unpublished
mimeo. Food and Resource Economics Department, A.R.E.C.-
Bradenton. University of Florida, Gainesville, Florida.
Taylor, Timothy G. and John J. VanSickle. Acreage Response in Florida
Strawberries. Unpublished monograph.