Strawberry harvesting and post-harvest handling

Harvesting

Two people should be able to handle 5000 plants with little outside help. A 10,000 plant farm would require up to five workers to help with harvesting and packing. A 40,000 plant farm would require eight to twelve workers for harvesting and packing. Harvesting strawberries is demanding work, for which you need to be physically fit.

Post-harvest handling

Once harvested, strawberries need to be stored in a cold room. Get some expert advice if you are thinking of designing or building your own cold room. Contact your local electricity authority for technical advice. They will also be able to give you the names of local refrigeration designers and builders. If you are planning to build a small cold room, think carefully about the advantages of forced-air systems to cool fruit rapidly. This may hold significant advantages for future quality management.

Yields

Experienced growers produce two to three 250 g punnets (a total of 500 to 750 g) of marketable fruit per plant per season (May to October). These figures assume an average planting density of about 45,000 to 55,000 plants per hectare. Higher yields are possible with efficient management of varieties, pests and diseases, nutrition and irrigation.

Beginner growers should expect to take a couple of seasons to achieve a yield of two to three punnets per plant.

Prices

For the Queensland production season, prices typically start at about $3.00 to $4.50 per punnet in May when fruit is scarce, declining to about $1.00 to $1.50 at the peak of the season in late August or early September. Higher prices are generally paid for large fruit of premium quality. Small and medium-sized fruit is always at the lower end of the range and harder to sell. Low-quality fruit is difficult to sell at all times.

Current and historical capital city central market prices and throughput volumes are available from the Ausmarket Consultants group.