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STRAWBERRY FIELDS NOT FOREVER

Clipboard researched by Kathie Bozanich and Janice L. Jones / Los Angeles Times; Graphics by Doris Shields / Los Angeles Times

Strawberries are still a major presence in Orange County. Witness the Strawberry Festival doings this weekend. And they are still a million-dollar crop. But the future is not entirely promising.

In 1988, the latest year for which information is available, bearing acreage of strawberry plants dropped to the lowest level since 1981 (after having reached a peak in 1985). Production was at its lowest level since 1980 and yield (tons per acre) was the smallest of the decade. Finally, the cash value of the crop was the lowest since the outset of the ‘80s. And although final figures are not available, indications are all these measures will be lower for 1989 than they were in 1988.

Bearing % Change From Production % Change From Year Acreage Previous Year (in tons) Previous Year 1988 2,336 -6 65,735 -7 1987 2,498 +4 70,993 -17 1986 2,413 -14 85,251 +1 1985 2,790 +1 84,537 +2 1984 2,756 +12 82,680 +12 1983 2,468 +3 73,522 +2 1982 2,396 +11 71,880 +3 1981 2,164 +24 69,486 +16 1980 1,751 -- 59,727 -- YEARLY 2,397 73,758 AVERAGE

Yield Year (tons per acre) 1988 28.1 1987 28.4 1986 35.3 1985 30.3 1984 30.0 1983 29.8 1982 30.0 1981 32.1 1980 34.1 YEARLY 30.8 AVERAGE

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STRAWBERRY CROP VALUE

The county strawberry crop is still a million-dollar enterprise, and the second most valuable crop in the county in terms of its f.o.b. value (ornamental plants are the most valuable). But its worth has been declining since 1986, after hitting a decade high in in 1984. The value of the 1988 crop, the most recent one for which information is available, was 15% lower than 1987, which in turn was 21% below the 1986 crop value. F.o.b. (freight on board) value is the price paid at the first point of delivery and includes the cost of production, harvesting and preparation for market--in effect, the price paid to the farmer/rancher when he brings the product to market.

Note: The average value during the nine years was $56,792,944.

1988: $43,385,100

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1987: 51,115,000

1986: 64,364,500

1985: 62,557,400

1984: 66,144,000

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1983: 64,699,000

1982: 60,379,200

1981: 55,727,800

1980: 42,764,500

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Source: Orange County Agricultural Commissioner


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