KINGSBURG, Calif. — High heat brought most California fruit crops on early and in ample volumes this summer, raising questions about how supply and demand will match up in the fall.
Grapes are a case in point. The bulk of the state’s crop ships after Labor Day. The California Table Grape Commission’s April estimate of 106.9 million boxes, if realized, would surpass last year’s production by more than 6 million.
But by July some saw higher prices as a possibility.
“We’re two weeks earlier than last year,” said George Matoian, sales and marketing director for Visalia Produce Sales Inc.
“Coupled with the demand that’s also so good, we might see a rise in f.o.b. during the month of September and definitely into the month of October, because we’re harvesting a lot more grapes earlier.”
“The whole early part of the season has been early,” said Sean Stockton, president of Tulare-based Sundale Vineyards.
“It’s going to be interesting to see how the middle and the later seasons play out because everything is coming on so fast.”
Grower-shippers and marketers expect larger fruit size but marginally smaller volume than last year when the new navel orange crop takes over for valencias, expected to end in October.
The navel industry packed 90 million 40-pound cartons for 2012-13, according to a July estimate by the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
Booth Ranches LLC forecast navel size will peak on 72s.
For the Orange Cove-based grower, maturing groves were expected to bring volume increases as well.
Satsuma mandarins, the first of the easy-peel varieties, should be available in early October, said Joan Wickham, advertising and public relations manager for Sherman Oaks-based Sunkist Growers. Clementines will follow.
“I always say the oranges follow the grapes,” said Al Imbimbo, vice president of sales and marketing for Lindsay-based Suntreat Packing & Shipping Co.
“The amount of heat units we’ve had over the spring and summer will be conducive to great eating quality and perhaps a little earlier start.”
Summer’s heat seemed likely to make for sweeter kiwifruit out of the San Joaquin Valley.
Kiwifruit, like crops before it, appears to be early, with harvest scheduled for mid-October.
“Obviously with 100-degree weather the last 20 days, the sugars are really increasing,” Dan Spain, vice president of sales and marketing for Kingsburg Orchards, said in late July.
“With the canopy, the fruit just loves that.”
Volumes are expected to be similar to last season, when the industry shipped about 7.5 million 7-pound tray equivalents, according to the Sacramento-based Kiwifruit Administrative Committee.
Harvest will continue through the end of October or early November, and the kiwifruit are typically marketed through May.
Madera-based Western Fresh Marketing plans to start shipping persimmons — mostly fuyus — around Sept. 18, said Chris Kragie, sales manager. That’s five to 10 days earlier than usual.
At Giumarra Bros. Fruit Co., Reedley, where hachiyas form the bulk of the crop, production starts around Oct. 1, said John Thiesen, division manager. The typical season runs to Thanksgiving.
The state’s niche apple deal should produce 2.47 million boxes by October, according to the Fresno-based California Apple Commission.
Growers expected early fujis to follow galas and granny smiths near the end of August.
Heat could bring cripps pink production, normally an October deal, into part of September as well, said Alex Ott, the commission’s executive director.
Stockton-based Primavera Marketing expects galas to finish by Labor Day weekend. Granny smiths and early fujis start there around Aug. 26. It usually starts cripps pink about mid-October.
The volume outlook is better than last year’s. Shipments for the 2012-13 season were near 2 million boxes, but the current estimate is still below the usual 2.6 million to 2.8 million.
Bakersfield-based Slayman Marketing expects volume on early pomegranate varieties like granadas and early foothills to be up 10% to 15%, said Ralph Melendez, ranch manager. That production started Aug. 5.
Fowler-based Simonian Fruit Co. expected to start Sept. 1 with its proprietary Urbanekgranates, with early wonderfuls in line for mid- to late September and wonderfuls around Oct. 1, sales manager Jeff Simonian said.
Wonderfuls account for about 80% of the California pomegranate crop.
“The wonderful deal is right on schedule,” Tom Tjerandsen, manager of the Sonoma-based Pomegranate Council, said in late July.
“A lot can happen between now and October when they get underway, but so far Mother Nature is behaving and everything is in a positive direction.”
Peaches and nectarines fade away in fall, but with just a month or so left in the deal shippers had much to celebrate as they finally gained access to Australia.
Kingsburg-based HMC Farms shipped the first California stone fruit in a load arriving July 27 at the Sydney airport.
“It’s been a long decade of waiting for access to this market,” said Marcy Martin, director of trade for the California Grape & Tree Fruit League.