California prune production falls sharply

08/07/2013 12:10:00 PM
Mike Hornick

California dried plumsCourtesy California Dried Plum BoardCalifornia prune volume is expected to drop about 24% this year, mirroring declining international production that’s likely to pressure prices upward.

The estimate for the state’s prune, or dried plum, crop is 105,000 tons for 2013, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture. That’s down from 138,000 last year, and a seven-year low.

Pricing on California product is projected to rise 10%-20% over 2012.

“This (pricing increase) is an adjustment that was imminent,” Donn Zea, executive director of the Sacramento-based California Dried Plum Board, said in a news release. “We just happened to get some assistance from a smaller crop in California and globally. I’m optimistic that we’ll be back on a sustainable track and our growers will regain enthusiasm about keeping their prune orchards.”

Chile is down about 41% and France 20% in volume. California acreage is down 7% to 51,000 acres, part of a longer term dropoff of 43% since 2000. Much of that acreage has been converted to more highly valued tree crops such as walnuts and almonds, according to the board. Similar conversion trends are happening internationally.

California yields can also vary considerably over the years, with the current decline a case in point.

The drop in supply comes at a time when the industry’s marketing efforts are focusing on the health benefits of prune consumption.

“This is a product that is enormously undersold,” Zea said in the release. “It is critical that consumers are able to continue to receive these messages."

The board represents 900 dried plum growers and 20 dried plum packers.



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