California kiwifruit shippers expect strong demand for high-quality, good-sized fruit.
Western Fresh Marketing, Madera, Calif., had a smooth transition from Chilean to California kiwifruit this fall, said Chris Kragie, sales manager.
West Coast deliveries of Chilean fruit wound down at the end of September, and Western Fresh began packing California fruit Oct. 1, Kragie said. The company’s Chilean deal on the East Coast ended the week of Oct. 8.
Kragie reported excellent quality on early fruit and sizes peaking on 33s and 36s.
Kurt Cappelluti, sales manager with Madera-based Stellar Distributing Inc., also said fruit was peaking on 33s and 36s, a perfect size for both the shipper’s club store and conventional retail customers.
Stellar’s first Italian kiwifruit container shipment was expected to arrive on the East Coast late the week of Oct. 8, Cappelluti said.
By the end of the week of Oct. 8, Wil-Ker-Son Ranch and Packing Co., Gridley, Calif., expected to be “going full blast” on its California production, said Doug Wilson, president and owner.
“Everything’s looking really good,” he said. “There’s no weather in back of us, and it doesn’t look like there’s any in front of us.”
Western Fresh let fruit ripen an extra 10 to 12 days this year to increase sugar levels, Kragie said.
The only negative so far this season is a crop in the southern growing region of California that’s expected to produce 10%-15% lower volume than last season, due to frost and hail early and sustained temperatures in the 108-degree range late, Kragie said.
Volumes should be similar, however, in northern growing regions.
With both Southern California and Italy’s volumes expected to be down this year, demand should be strong, Kragie said.
“We’re starting at or higher than a normal year, and it should hold pretty good,” he said. “Markets should be really good.”
On Oct. 10, the U.S. Department of Agriculture reported prices of $16-17 for 19.8-pound containers of hayward 36s from Chile, up from $15 last year at the same time.
Wil-Ker-Son Ranch expects strong export demand from Mexico, Canada and to a lesser extent Korea and Japan, Wilson said. That, combined with an Italian crop that Wilson said will likely be 25%-30% lower than last year, should mean strong demand for California shippers.
While the overall California crop will be significantly lighter than last year, the 2011-12 crop was the biggest Cappelluti has seen in 25 years. This season’s crop will be closer to industry norms, he said.
Prices should drop slightly when the California volumes begin peaking, then pick up again in January, Cappelluti said.