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Coronavirus Crisis Creating Issues For Biggest Crop On Central, South Coasts

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The biggest crop on the Central and South Coasts is facing some major coronavirus issues.

Strawberries make up about $1.2 billion dollars of Ventura and Santa Barbara County’s agricultural industries. 

The timing of the coronavirus crisis couldn’t be worse. 

This is peak strawberry harvest time in the region, while the situation poses both safety concerns for farmworkers and market issues for the industry.

Safety is the key concern, but Ventura County officials say plans are in place to protect workers while keeping an essential industry operating.  Industry officials also developed safety guidelines.

There’s another issue.  Carolyn O’Donnell, with the California Strawberry Commission, says the crisis is hitting at the peak time for the region’s strawberry harvest, and it’s affecting sales. 

Restaurants make up about 15-20% of sales, a market that's been decimated, and consumer shopping habits are also not the same as usual

O’Donnell says it’s too early to assess the impacts, but the alternatives for the region’s strawberries are limited.  Some can go to things like jams, but there’s limited capacity.  Additionally, the shelf life for strawberries after being picked is also limited.  O'Donnel says some could go to food banks to help those in need.

The clock is ticking.  50% of the state’s strawberries are usually harvested between now and July 1st.  The timing couldn’t be much worse.

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