Retail sales and volumes of fresh produce declined in California for the 52-week period ending March 25.

The Fresh Produce and Floral Council’s quarterly report about California retail sales shows that for the period, total produce sales were off 3.2% and fresh produce volume was off 6%, according to a news release from La Mirada, Calif.-based FPFC.

The FPFC Market Report, prepared by Fusion Marketing, is available only to members of the council.

The major influence on the sluggish performance was the fruit category, which accounted for 52% of California produce sales and 56% of retail volume, according to the release.

The fruit category experienced a 2.6% decline in sales and a 7% drop in volume compared with the same time a year ago.

Random weight sales of fresh produce were down 4.9% for fruits and random weight vegetables were off 6.5% The report said random weight sales accounted for 72% of fruit retail dollars and 67% of vegetables retail sales.

On the other hand, fixed weight fruit retail dollars showed a gain of 3.7% and fixed weight vegetables were down a modest 0.2%.

Berries showed a 5.4% gain in sales for the year ending March 25, while sales of mangoes were up 3.4%. On the other hand, sales of lemons, grapes and apples experienced declines of 10.7%, 6% and 4%, respectively.

In the vegetable category, sales of peppers were up 7%, potato sales declined 9.4% and lettuce was down 7.7%.

Among the major markets of Los Angeles, San Diego, San Francisco and Sacramento, the FPFC report said San Diego suffered the biggest drop in sales and volume in the 52 week period, dropping 3.7% in sales and 6.4% in volume.

The FPFC Market Report reflects deflation experienced among several major produce commodities in the past several months, said Dick Spezzano, owner of Monrovia, Calif.-based Spezzano Consulting Service,

Spezzano said produce and dairy items have had major deflation, while meat, sugar and oils have experienced inflation.

Spezzano said field tomato costs to the retailer in the last several months were less than one half of last year.

“One retailer told me that his tomato cases were up 30,000 cartons per week (in volume) but his sales were down $200,000 per week,” he said.

However, Spezzano said the oversupply and low prices of vegetables will likely end soon end as growing regions shift.