Kiwifruit not necessarily golden for California growers

10/30/2012 04:51:00 PM
Jim Offner

California may be the Golden State, but generally not where kiwifruit is concerned.

In California, the fruit is the green hayward variety.

A bacterial disease has hit gold kiwifruit in Italy and New Zealand with ferocity, and some California growers have embarked on plantings of gold varieties in hopes to fill any market voids that situation creates.

Not everybody is going in that direction, though.

“We’re not going to do any gold. We’ll stay with what we know,” said Rau Rantana, field operations manager for Gridley, Calif.-based Gridley Packing.

It’s not as though California growers are averse to gold kiwifruit — they’re just realistic about the limits of the state’s climate, said Nick Matteis, assistant manager with the Sacramento, Calif.-based Kiwifruit Administrative Committee, a federal marketing order.

“The climate is actually pretty harsh for kiwifruit in general, and the hayward stands up the best to it,” Matteis said.

There have been efforts in the past to grow gold kiwifruit, with little success, Matteis said.

“It got to a certain point of maturity where it seemed to hit a wall,” he said.

Visalia, Calif.-based Phillips Farms Marketing tried to grow gold kiwifruit, but it didn’t work out, owner Doug Phillips said.

“It didn’t size well, and it had variable internal coloring and was prone to preharvest shrivel problems,” he said.

Phillips said there are growers who are trying a couple of new yellow-flesh varieties related to the Enza Gold, but it will be awhile before anybody knows how that experiment turns out.

He said California is adding about 1,000 new acres of kiwifruit, and some of that will have gold varieties, although he said he did not know how much.

Italy — the world’s second-largest kiwifruit producer, behind China, ships gold kiwifruit to the U.S. during the fall-winter season, and marketers say their job is to ensure there is plenty available.

Vancouver, British Columbia-based The Oppenheimer Group, for one, planned to market the soreli gold variety starting from Italy in the Eastern U.S. and Canada in mid-October, and in the West, a few weeks later, said Steve Woodyear-Smith, category director for tropicals.

He said Jingold will be available from Italy in early December.

“Both are tropical sweet in flavor and will be sold in single-layer trays and 6-kilogram volume-fill packs,” Woodyear-Smith said.

There doesn’t seem to be much concern about a bacterial disease called Psa-V, which has damaged gold fruit in Italy and New Zealand.


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