Courtest Family Tree FarmsNectarines show severe damage from an April 11 hail storm. FRESNO, Calif. — California grower-shippers are still tallying damage from an onslaught of quarter-sized hail April 11. With the exception of stone fruit, however, most crops suffered little.
The industrywide loss for early season varieties of nectarines and peaches is estimated at 20% by most grower-shippers, said Dovey Plain, marketing coordinator for Reedley-based Family Tree Farms.
The bulk of the heavy hail fell along a 20-mile swath stretching from southwest of Kingsburg east to south of Dinuba and Reedley.
“It’s definitely in a very concentrated area, and within that swath some people got hit really hard while others were spared,” Plain said. “There could be big supply problems on certain varieties or at certain times.”
Courtesy Flavor Tree Fruit Co.Maurice Cameron, president of Flavor Tree Fruit Co., said cherries sustained less damage during the hail storm. Since the demise of the California Tree Fruit Agreement two years ago, there is no single source compiling industry statistics and, therefore, no official crop estimates.
“Overall, it’s hard to say how bad things are, because we don’t know what varieties were hit,” Plain said.
The nectarine, peach and some cherry orchards of Hanford-based Flavor Tree Fruit Co. LLC were in the heart of the hail belt.
“We have significant damage in the nectarine crop and significant, but not to the same extent, in the peach crop,” said Maurice Cameron, president.
The hail was smaller in the Hanford area, Cameron said, and crews have been thinning off damaged fruit.
As for the company’s later season varieties, “the verdict is still out,” Cameron said.
Damage to cherries was less severe, with Cameron putting the loss at about 10%.
“We really didn’t see any cherries on the ground,” he said.
The trees will likely abort any fruit that took a direct hit, Cameron said. It will be akin to natural thinning, because Flavor Tree Fruit’s cherry trees have a pretty full crop, he said.
The outlook is much brighter among other commodity groups.
It was mostly rain that hit the region’s citrus belt, and that natural irrigation is resulting in larger fruit, said Bob Blakely, director of industry relations for Exeter-based California Citrus Mutual.
“We’ve already seen it come up, so we’re now peaking in the more desirable sizes, 72s and larger,” he said.