High-quality Christmas produce favorites await consumers this season, though prices could be up on some commodities, down on others.
Potato grower-shippers should continue to enjoy strong demand for russets, reds, yellows and specialties this holiday season — a big improvement from last season, said Kevin Stanger, senior vice president of sales and marketing for Wada Farms Marketing Group LLC, Idaho Falls, Idaho.
“I think the market should stay fairly firm,” Stanger said. “Consumer (packs) have been very good, very tight.”
Not too tight, however, to avoid merchandising them, Stanger said.
“They’re not outrageously high, so it’s a good time for promotional activities.”
Demand continues to rise every Christmas for reds, yellows and specialty spuds, Stanger said. And excellent quality on all varieties should also help spur holiday sales, he said.
On Nov. 20, the U.S. Department of Agriculture reported prices of $8-9 for 50-pound cartons of russets 40-50s from Idaho, up from $4 last year at the same time.
The quality, color and size of California clementines heading into December is very good, said Fred Berry, marketing director for Mulholland Citrus, Orange Cove, Calif.
“We’ve had ideal growing weather — maturity levels are ahead of last year,” Berry said.
Volumes of late-season offshore fruit were higher than usual in November, and keeping demand in check, particularly in the East and Midwest, Berry said.
But by the time California production begins to peak in December, he hoped offshore product would be out of the pipeline.
Chilean fruit should be out of the market before Christmas demand heats up, said John Lazopoulos, Spanish and Moroccan import manager for DNE World Fruit Sales, Fort Pierce, Fla.
DNE expects to be shipping higher-quality varieties of Spanish and Moroccan fruit for the holiday.
“Demand should stay pretty good, then strengthen somewhat in late December or early January,” Lazopoulos said. “Retailers are looking for better quality, and they’re willing to pay for it. We could be coming into a two-tier market.”
On Nov. 20, the USDA reported prices of $3-3.50 for 5-pound cartons of clementines 24s from Spain, down from $5-5.50 last year at the same time.
Though official numbers won’t come in until January, Wisconsin is on track to produce record cranberry volumes this year, said Bob Wilson, managing member of The Cranberry Network LLC, Wisconsin Rapids, Wis.
That’s good news for consumers looking to go fresh on the cranberry sauce this Christmas.
“We’re in excellent shape — the forecast for Christmas is exceptional,” Wilson said. “There’s plenty of superior-quality fruit for a full-blown season.”
Because of large processing volumes this season industry-wide, Wilson warned of inferior product creeping into the fresh market. Buyers and marketers will have to be vigilant to maintain quality control this Christmas.
“The quality, in general, has been falling down” in the runup to Thanksgiving, Wilson said. “We got a lot of last-minute orders for Thanksgiving and had to turn some down.”
Cartons of 24 12-ounce film bags of medium late howe cranberries from Massachusetts were selling for $34-35 at the New England Produce Center Nov. 18, up from $33-34 last year at the same time.