This year the frost continued in May. Drought also made it clear that without watering systems, it is not possible to grow strawberries in large areas. Labor shortages are also a major problem in the sector.
Jēkabpils municipality Zasas civil parish farm “Bērzi” has been cultivating strawberries for 26 years. They grow in an area of 3.7 hectares (ha) and watering is installed in the fields, while strawberry plants are mulched with straw.
“We take berries to Rīga, to the night market. But the Rīga night market does not go well at all this year because of [Rail Baltica] construction,” said the strawberry grower Ligita Kalniņa. According to her, if the berry fields were closer to Riga, strawberry cultivation would be more beneficial.
One of the largest strawberry growers in Latvia, with 27 ha, is "Mālpils zemenes". Its spokesman, Andris Apsītis, said strawberry yields will be smaller this year, while prices will be higher than last year.
"Well, if you look all over Latvia, the prices for strawberries could be quite high [..]. But now these [frosts] are our risks, and we have to count on them so that the farmer can survive the next year, they must trade those strawberries at a higher price. I think [the price] could hold between €4 and €7 [per kilogram], just when the proper strawberry season begins. Last year there was an indicative price of around €4.5," Apsītissaid.
A lack of working hands remains the biggest problem in the sector, said both Kalniņa and Apsītis.
"Very many now leave their strawberry fields simply because there is nobody who picks them because this is a specific seasonal job for two, three months, and it is very difficult to get the seasonal workers. Local Latvian employees, and we also attract [workforce] from foreign countries, especially more from Ukraine this year. There are some who have come for years, well, they come. [..] People are getting used to it now, well, work little, earn a lot," sid Apsītis.
Strawberry growers are also inviting residents to self-harvest, which usually comes cheaper.