As California stone fruit season begins, growers and shippers know the pressure will be on the state’s supplies of fruit. “Demand is pretty strong, especially with everything being late. Retailers are trying to fill their shelves with product,” says Mauricio Jimenez-Castro, director of sales for Prima Wawona. “What’s also influencing California this year is that the southern states like Georgia, had major crop failures due to weather. So we’ll be covering a lot of businesses with California product. We expect a season with pretty good demand throughout.”
That said, the California stone fruit season is also starting late this year by about three weeks compared to historical starts due to a combination of cold and rain. “We got record rain in the early part of the year and a lot of cold temperatures that delayed the process of the fruit maturing in time,” says Jimenez-Castro.
Prima Wawona began its harvest of yellow peaches and yellow nectarines last Friday and this week it’s beginning with white-fleshed peaches and white-fleshed nectarines. In about three weeks, it will also begin with apricots and plums. In all, the season should run until mid-October. “A lot of the industry finishes by the end of August or the second week of September. We have an extended season with a late peach variety called Prima Gattie and that will harvest until the second week in October,” says Jimenez-Castro.
Tight supply early on
The crop is similar in size to last year. “Some players that were impacted in the early part of the season, especially in nectarines and plums. Overall the early part of the season will be tight because some of the trees had a light set. However, mid-June to the later part of June on should be more into a normal crop,” he says.
This year he also adds that the fruit has many strong quality factors to it. “We’ll have excellent eating quality on the fruit. With this weather we got extra chill hours in the right part of the year contributing to good flavor,” says Jimenez-Castro. “Sizing is going to be good. On the early fruit, we’re getting almost one size larger than what we were getting last year. So it’s a good year for size, taste and flavor profile.”
As for pricing, it’s looking to be stronger than last year–already a record year in pricing–due to all the demand pressure. “The scarcity of other products is creating the opportunity for strong pricing that we believe will maintain throughout the season,” says Jimenez-Castro. “The season will start out pretty strong in the early part and then it will stabilize a bit. Even with that stabilization on the price, we hope to receive a premium on what we received last year with the added demand and the need to cover more business.”
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