Florida strawberries take root in Middle East, rest of world
Florida strawberries are bred to do what other strawberries can’t.
They endure a harsh climate and grow during the winter, despite fewer daylight hours and the looming threat of frost. They are tough enough to make long trips in the back of a truck when they are shipped throughout the country. And they can be grown in great volumes on small parcels of land.
“We’re the torture test of the world for strawberries,” said Ted Campbell, executive director of the Florida Strawberry Growers Association. “If we can make a berry grow in the Florida climate, it’s good to go anywhere.”
In the past few years, Florida strawberries have been growing — and making millions — in the Middle East, where there is a large demand for such a high-value, robust crop.
Royalties from Florida strawberry plants sold in Middle Eastern countries, including Turkey, Egypt and Iraq, help fund the strawberry breeding program at the University of Florida and other research and development.
“Strawberries fit in very nicely in that Middle Eastern climate,” Campbell said. “They are a popular product there, and can survive the drive to markets across bumpy country roads without getting too bruised.”
Unlike in the United States, Mideast farmers don’t have the luxury of spreading out and moving their crops around in large fields, Campbell said. They have limited space, which makes strawberries the perfect crop for them.
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