Watsonville strawberry grower loses 85 percent of crop thanks to rain

Bay Area

WATSONVILLE (KRON) — Fresh strawberries might be a bit scarce for the next week or two thanks to the recent, late season rain.

The rain has stopped, for now, but the damage to strawberry farms near Watsonville is done.

Strawberry grower Peter Navarro estimates he has lost 85 percent of what was ripe after his fifty-acre farm was hit with an inch and a half of rain last weekend.

“The skin of the strawberry plants is very sensitive to moisture, so any rainfall is just going to split it wide open and it’s going to rot,” Navarro said.

The furrows are filled with cracked and rotting berries which must be culled or cleaned to guard against the spread of mildew and rot to the the green and still healthy fruit nearby.

“It will affect the healthy fruit and if you don’t clean the plant, it can also cause stress in the plant, so we have to go in and clean the plants and basically start over,” he said.

Crews that should be picking healthy berries are busy culling the bad fruit.

There is still some pre-rain fruit in the supply chain, but when that’s gone, Navarro says fresh strawberries will be scarce for a week or two and prices will go up for a time.

“I think you might see a spike in price, eventually things will normalize, but for the next few days maybe a week or two you’re going to see a spike,” Navarro said.

Right now is prime time for strawberries.

Navarro says his fields can usually weather a little short-lived rain, but back to back to back storms like this past week is every berry farmer’s worst nightmare.

“To have rain like this just sets you back, it’s demoralizing to drive in and see all the rotten fruit on the ground,” Navarro said.

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