California's kiwifruit enjoys strong demand, steady market

10/19/2011 09:49:00 AM
Andy Nelson

Courtesy Western Fresh Marketing ServicesWestern Fresh Marketing Services Inc., Madera, Calif., was shipping kiwifruit at about 50% of full capacity the week of Oct. 17, with volumes expected to begin peaking about the week of Oct. 31, said Chris Kragie, vice president.Grower-shippers reported strong demand for a high-quality California kiwifruit crop as the deal ramped up to its November peak.

Western Fresh Marketing Services Inc., Madera, Calif., was shipping at about 50% of full capacity the week of Oct. 17, with volumes expected to begin peaking about the week of Oct. 31, said Chris Kragie, vice president.

Markets were steady in mid-October, but expected to drop as more California product comes on, Kragie said. Western Fresh expects to ship 10-15% more kiwifruit from California this season than in 2010, he said.

On Oct. 18, 19.8-pound containers of California haywards 23s were selling for $19.50 on the Los Angeles terminal market, comparable to last year at the same time.

“There will be a downward trend as more shippers come into the market, but it should be a very good season,” he said.

One grower for Regatta Tropicals Ltd., Grover Beach, Calif., began shipping late the week of Oct. 10, and others quickly followed suit, said Steve Riley, the company’s sales director. By the end of October, volumes should start to peak out of California, he said.

“Once the Northern Cal guys get started, it’ll be ‘Katie bar the door,’” Riley said. “There will be a lot of fruit coming in.”

Harvest was running a little later than last year as of mid-October, Riley said. But that’s not necessarily a bad thing. Later often means growers are waiting for fruit to get enough sugar.

“The pressure’s are there, and the sugars are at a great starting point,” Riley said of mid-October fruit. “Most fields I’ve been in the fruit looks beautiful, and there’s a nice range of sizes.”

Harvest started the week of Oct. 17 for Cal Harvest Marketing Inc., Hanford, Calif., about a week later than normal, said John Fagundes, president.

The transition from Southern hemisphere deals to California was a smooth one, with Italy remaining the wild card as fall progresses, Fagundes said.

“It all depends on the exchange rate,” he said.

The quality of the California crop is outstanding this season, Kragie said.

“We had a great growing season, and we’ve had very little cull-out,” he said.

Brix levels the week of October 17 were 7 and up, with sizes peaking on 30s and 25s for Western Fresh, Kragie said. Unlike last season, the company has a better mix of all sizes.

Chilean shipments wound down early this year because of strong demand in August and September, Kragie said. Western Fresh expects to begin receiving kiwifruit from Italy about the first week in November, right on time.

Riley reported strong demand at the beginning of the deal.

“Customers are definitely excited about (the 2011-12 crop),” he said.



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