3/31/2012

U.S. Strawberry Imports From Mexico At Record High

U.S. strawberry imports from Mexico were at a record high in 2011 at 242.8 million pounds, nearly the entire volume imported that year. Only a small fraction originated from other sources such as Canada, Argentina, and Peru. Mexico supplies the U.S. strawberry market almost year round but ships heavily during the winter months. U.S. Census Bureau trade data indicate that in January 2011, U.S. fresh strawberry imports were up 48 percent in volume from the same period last year and higher than any January volume in the past decade. More recent import data from the U.S. Census Bureau was not yet available at the time this report was released but AMS weekly shipment data show volumes from Mexico this season through mid-March were up 34 percent over the same period last year.

Despite higher imports, overall domestic supplies of frozen strawberries in 2011 declined moderately from the year before due to lower beginning stocks and relatively flat industry packed volume during the season. The decline in beginning stocks more than offset the 3-percent increase in frozen strawberry imports. Last year started off with frozen strawberry stocks at 263.2 million pounds, down substantially from the record carry-over of 322.5 million pounds in 2010, based on NASS cold storage data.

The Processing Strawberry Advisory Board of California reported total U.S. frozen strawberry pack in 2011 at 458.3 million pounds, only fractionally below the previous year. With reduced overall supplies, the average price U.S. growers received for processing-use strawberries increased 19 percent from a year ago in 2011 to $0.35 per pound. End-of-year frozen strawberry stocks climbed to 291.7 million pounds, up 11 percent from 2010 ending stocks and 16 percent higher than the previous 5-year average.

Slowed movement in the domestic market was partly offset by stronger exports, with volume up to an 8-year high at 45.1 million pounds, valued at $35.5 million, the highest since 1995. Exports account for less than 5 percent of total frozen strawberry supplies in the United States. Shipment volumes to top export markets—Canada, Japan, and Mexico—posted increases in 2011, along with fairly substantial growths to Taiwan and Singapore and smaller markets in the Middle East and Latin America.

**Source: ERS/USDA