Mother’s Day should bring ample supplies of summer fruit

04/19/2012 12:35:00 PM
Mike Hornick

California’s dry winter had many growers predicting early and ample supplies of summer fruit — until late-March rains came along, clouding the picture on some commodities.

As spring arrived, weather forced strawberry growers to downplay Easter expectations. But they expected strong supplies for Mother’s Day on May 13.

“We’re harvesting in all California districts, just not very much after two rainy weekends,” Cindy Jewell, director of marketing for Watsonville-based California Giant Berry Farms. “Mother’s Day is the next big pull, and we’ll definitely have promotable volume.”

California strawberries — which account for 88% of U.S. production — grow year-round but peak from March to August. Acreage is up 2.8% in 2012 after a couple of flat years, with 1,036 more in production.

“We were surprised it made such a big jump this year,” said Carolyn O’Donnell, communications director for the Watsonville-based California Strawberry Commission. “Either the land became available or people had second-year crop.”

Acreage wasn’t the only indicator of increased volume.

“The trend in varieties is growing for yields,” Jewell said. “Even though it might go up only a thousand acres, the yield will be higher.”

Stronger yielding varieties, in fact, could allow the state its first 100 million-box table grape crop.

On blueberries, California Giant expects about a 50% increase in its volume over last year.

“We’re still in a growing trend and expanding,” Jewell said. “We estimate our total blueberry program this year is 15 million to 20 million pounds.”

The state’s blueberries start in late April in Arvin, ahead of Delano and Kingsburg. They’re also grown on the coast.

Melon grower Dan Andrews, owner of Bakersfield-based Dan Andrews Farms, remained optimistic despite an inch of rain from one storm and a forecast that raised the prospect of some replanting.

“Last year it rained and rained, and everyone was two weeks behind schedule,” he said. “These intermittent rains will cause slight delays, nothing significant. It’s going to take a little longer to get melons out of the ground.

“We’re stuck. You’ve got to plant now, and let the weather do what it’s going to do.”

The Bakersfield deal is expected to start in mid-June on watermelons and honeydews, with cantaloupes arriving by July 1.


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