Pomegranate growers expect good quality from early crop

09/14/2012 02:12:00 PM
Cynthia David

Justin Bedwell, president of Madera, Calif.-based Bari Produce LLC, expects better quality fruit than last year.

“That means more export and retail sales and less to the processed juice utility market, but on the flip side there will probably be more fruit,” he said.

While most grower-shippers are keen to get in and out of their orchards as quickly as possible, Kurt Cappelluti, sales manager of Madera, Calif.-based Stellar Distributing, aims to be one of the last shippers out of the deal.

“I want to start as late as I possibly can,” said Cappelluti, who began picking around Oct. 15 in the past two years.

“The longer I can wait and not have to deal with the weather, the better the pomegranate I’m going to produce,” he said.

“Not just from the first day we pack, but it’s going to store better in the cooler two months later.”

With the enormous production coming on in the next few years, increasing demand and finding new markets is top of mind for everyone in the industry.

“We’re certainly trying to push the demand to the point where we can keep prices steady even as more and more supply comes online,” Paris said.

“We’re not projecting an increase, but we think we can keep the demand growing at the same rate as the supply.”

Labor is already an issue, Simonian said, as pomegranates compete with California grape and stone fruit for workers.

To be proactive, Sterling has increased wages to encourage the 500-600 workers who start picking the company’s figs in June to remain through November and possibly December.

“Overall, I think our future is pretty strong,” Cappelluti said, echoing the feeling of other grower-shippers.

“With the help of the gurus at Paramount and others who are doing a good job of marketing, I don’t think we’re going to have too much production.”


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