Kiwifruit markets remain strong heading into November as California and Italian fruit slowly filled an empty pipeline.

California and Italy entered a very strong kiwifruit market this fall thanks to a significantly shorter summer Chilean crop, and it remained strong through the last week of October, said Steve Woodyear-Smith, tropical category director for Vancouver, British Columbia-based The Oppenheimer Group.

“The market was pretty strong, with the lack of green fruit in the market,” Woodyear-Smith said Oct. 27. “It encouraged people to get fruit in the market. There’s not really a lot of volume into the market yet.”

Madera, Calif.-based Western Fresh Marketing began shipping from California the last week of September, said Chris Kragie, the company’s deciduous fruit manager.

California volumes will likely be similar to last year, or up to 15% below normal industrywide, Kragie said.

“We’re peaking on 33s with excellent demand and good prices. The market will come down as Italy starts, but it will still be strong.”

Italian shipments should start to hit the West Coast by the first week of November, Kragie said.

Sizing on this year’s California crop is right where customers like it, with fruit peaking on 20- and 30-series-sized fruit and very little small fruit in the market, said Kurt Cappelluti, sales manager of Madera-based Stellar Distributing Inc.

California’s crop could be down slightly from last season, said Cappelluti, who expected markets to begin falling by November.

“We’re finally starting to get some good production, which could stimulate a lot of movement,” he said. “We’re looking to promote over the next month or two.”

On Oct. 28, the U.S. Department of Agriculture reported prices of $23-24.50 for 19.8-pound containers of hayward 27s from California, up from $16.25-17.25 two years ago at the same time.

The USDA doesn’t have prices from October 2013 because of the government shutdown.

It’s taken a little longer than usual for Italian volumes to build, but the deal should be running at full steam by November, Woodyear-Smith said.

Gold and green Italian fruit was shipping from the East Coast the week of Oct. 27, with West Coast shipments expected to follow soon, Woodyear-Smith said.

By mid-November, there should be enough product from both California and Italy to weaken markets, Woodyear-Smith said.

“There should be decent volumes of big fruit. There’s good size profile from both California and Italy.”

The shape, color and size of Italian fruit in October was as good as Woodyear-Smith said he’s ever seen from the country.

Italian volumes could be a bit heavier than last year, but still well below previous years, Woodyear-Smith said. Hail and flooding could affect production in one growing area, he said.

Italian volumes should be 70% to 80% of normal this year, Kragie said.

As for Chile, which should begin shipping in mid- to late March, Kragie said, a recent freeze there was not expected to affect kiwifruit volumes.

Vine disease spreads in Chile

A vine disease that caused widespread damage to New Zealand kiwifruit is now spreading in Chile.

Pseudomonas syringae pv actinidiae, or PSA, was originally found in the Maule and Bio Bio growing regions of Chile. It has now spread to the Bernardo O’Higgins region, said Carlos Cruzat, president of the Chilean Kiwifruit Committee.

Because PSA was so devastating, particularly to gold kiwifruit, in New Zealand, Mount Maunganui, New Zealand-based Zespri International Ltd. created the SunGold, a gold/green hybrid that is less susceptible to the disease.