Fort Worth

Strawberry shortage sends prices soaring for DFW consumers

The California drought has made strawberries harder to come by and driven prices higher. For some specialty grocers like Roy Pope Grocery in Fort Worth, hich prefers California strawberries, the shortage has meant higher prices.
The California drought has made strawberries harder to come by and driven prices higher. For some specialty grocers like Roy Pope Grocery in Fort Worth, hich prefers California strawberries, the shortage has meant higher prices. Star-Telegram

It’s a good thing strawberries aren’t a holiday staple.

Prices have soared this year and some distributors have had problems with the quality of the popular fruit.

At Roy Pope Grocery, an institution on Fort Worth’s west side since 1943, a quart of strawberries was selling for $7.99 last week. Several weeks ago, they were selling for roughly $4.99 a quart.

At grocery stores across Fort Worth, prices ranged from $4.98 to $7.99 a pound.

The prices are ridiculous.

Bob Larance, owner of Roy Pope Grocery

“You can get them but it’s just too costly,” said Bob Larance, Roy Pope’s owner. “The prices are ridiculous.”

The culprit is the California drought, which has limited the supply of the thirsty fruit.

At the gourmet grocery, Driscoll’s strawberries from California are preferred for their quality and taste.

For now, Larance said he’s selling them at cost. He doesn’t expect to see the price drop on California strawberries anytime soon.

“I don't think we’ll see any change until we turn this drought around, particularly in Calfornia,” Larance said.

Customers are still buying them but not as many as in the past. The drought has also made them smaller.

“Where they used to buy two or three quarts, now they’re just buying one,” Larance said.

2.3 billion: Pounds of California strawberries harvested in 2014.

In 2014, more than 2.3 billion pounds of California strawberries were harvested, which was about 88 percent of the nation’s fresh and frozen strawberries, according to the California Strawberry Commission.

Larger grocery chains say the shortage will ease as the Florida strawberry season kicks in that runs from December through April.

Florida grows about 11,000 acres of strawberries in Hillsborough County, making up about 15 percent of the nation’s strawberry crop, according to the Florida Strawberry Growers Association.

“Yes, we’ve had some supply issues but it should be getting better on Dec. 1,” said Gary Huddleston, director of consumer affairs for Kroger. “The market shifts to Florida and again from Mexico. Those areas should produce a more mature quality of fruit.”

The shortage isn’t limited to grocery stores.

FreshPoint Dallas, which supplies fresh produce to a number of restaurants, wholesalers and hotels throughout the Metroplex, has also faced shortages.

We are fortunate to work with some of the largest growers but still face shorts and quality issues.

Shane Lovell, FreshPoint Dallas

“We are feeling the impact,” said Shane Lovell of FreshPoint. “Prices are rising and quality is not great. We are fortunate to work with some of the largest growers but still face shorts and quality issues. This is also always a difficult time of year as growing areas are transitioning.”

There is hope that El Niño conditions will lessen drought conditions for California this winter. It is just as important that the winter storms replenish California’s snowpack, which fell to 5 percent of its historical average in April. The snowpack helps refill California’s reservoirs and accounts for about 30 percent of the state’s water supply.

The same storm system that was bringing rain to North Texas this week should help. Forecasters were saying 20 inches of snow could fall on the Sierra Nevada mountains from Yosemite National Park to Lake Tahoe.

Bill Hanna: 817-390-7698, @fwhanna

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