The lower prices growers received for strawberries, pears, and processing oranges in April 2004 relative to the same time a year ago more than offset the higher returns received from other fruit, pushing the April grower price index for fruit and nuts down 6 percent from the April 2003 index.

The USDA says that at 90 (1990-92=100), the index was lower than a year ago for the first time this year and the lowest for the month since 1997. At the retail level, consumers paid higher prices in April for Red Delicious apples, Thompson seedless grapes, navel oranges, and grapefruit.

Commercial strawberry production in the two major producing states — California and Florida — is forecast at 2.1 billion pounds in 2004, up 3 percent from a year ago.

California crop

In California, the crop is forecast to be 3 percent larger, surpassing the previous record crop in 2003.