Young nectarines showed hail damage after an April 11 California storm.
Young nectarines showed hail damage after an April 11 California storm.

Production of California stone fruit is about to accelerate but is showing much less volume than usual thanks to an April 11 hailstorm.

“We expect a crop of 40 million boxes or below on peaches, plums and nectarines,” said Barry Bedwell, president of Fresno-based California Grape & Tree Fruit League. “We think it’s down (at least) 15% from a normal crop. In the neighborhood of 5 million to 7 million boxes were lost. No one’s disputing that.”

Crop estimates are informal. Since the demise of the California Tree Fruit Agreement two years ago, no one source compiles statistics.

Most of the April hail fell over a stretch of 20 miles from southwest of Kingsburg east to south of Dinuba and Reedley. Traver was hit hardest.

In mid-May, production of peaches, nectarines and plums was still in startup mode.

“It’s been a tough start,” Mark Grijalva, sales representative at Reedley-based Mountain View Fruit Sales Inc., said May 15. “But the customer doesn’t want to hear what got hurt, even though it’s serious.

“We got hurt too. I don’t have a number. We’ve just got to be careful to keep our regulars and be sure we have enough fruit for them. Around June 1 it’ll start opening up and supplies should be good for our regular customers.”

John Thiesen, division manager for Giumarra Bros. Fruit Co. in Reedley, Calif., said his company dodged the bullet.

“We didn’t get the hail on our product,” he said. “All of our stuff was north or south of the storm zone. There’s huge damage (elsewhere), but I did see some crews out trying to do some salvaging. There’s an area where the fruit’s not quality enough to pick.”

Giumarra Reedley started around May 1 with white- and yellow-flesh peaches and apricots, Thiesen said.

“We were 10 days later than normal last year, and five to seven days early this year, though I don’t think there’s a normal anymore,” he said.

“Volume should pick up a lot starting this weekend,” Thiesen said May 15. Giumarra Reedley expected to start plums in two weeks, but anticipated a May 23 start for its flavorosa variety.

“Some (growers) are saying 6 million to 8 million boxes less, but it just depends on what was salvageable and what packouts will be like for the growers who were not hit,” he said. “We’ve just barely begun to get a bead on what the results will be. If you have good quality product right now, people are interested in purchasing undamaged fruit.”

Apricots were hit by the hail, but the bulk of that crop appears to have escaped damage. Most of that fruit is grown in Stanislaus County, beyond the hail zone.