California growers shipped roughly 6 million boxes of pomegranates last year, and the Sonoma, Calif.-based Pomegranate Council is projecting similar production this year.
“Right now, everything looks like it’s about two weeks earlier than last year with great quality and similar volume as 2013,” Ray England, vice president of marketing for D.J. Forry Co., Reedley, Calif., said Aug. 22. “We started harvest this week with our early varieties, and we’ll continue harvesting through various varieties, ending up with the wonderful variety in October.”
Timing in California depends not only on variety but also geography. Jim Perrion, sales manager for Slayman Marketing Inc., Bakersfield, Calif., said his company started harvesting granadas on July 30 and would finish its harvest with early foothills by the end of September. He said growers in Southern California were two to three weeks ahead of their counterparts in northern growing areas.
Perrion said Aug. 26 that 20-pound boxes were selling for $52. He added, however, that prices will drop as volumes increase.
Volume will ramp up quickly when the wonderful variety is harvested. Managing partner Atomic Torosian said Aug. 25 that Fresno, Calif.-based Crown Jewels Produce LLC already had finished with granadas and expected to start harvesting early foothills by Sept. 10. Torosian said wonderfuls, which represent roughly 80% of the state’s volume, would start by Sept. 25.
“We go all out for about a month with us packing,” he said. “It’s a race to get pomegranates picked and brought in before there’s any chance of cracking. Last year, a significant amount of pomegranates didn’t get packed in a box for some reason. The worst thing for pomegranates is rain. We need rain in California, but we need to get the pomegranates in first.”
Pomegranates are a drought-resistant cop, but California’s lingering drought is having some effect on the fruit. England said he expects fruit to peak at a size or a size and a half smaller than last year.
Although sizing is expected to be down, Torosian said color “looks extremely good in both the interior and exterior.” He expected said Crown Jewels to be shipping into mid-December.
“We can make some of that Christmas pull,” he said.
Jeff Simonian, sales manager for Fowler, Calif.-based Simonian Fruit Co., said his company started harvest during the first week in September.
“Outlook is good,” he said. “I’m optimistic about our crop. Size may be down slightly, but we expect quality to be good.”
President Michael Solomon said Los Angeles-based Pom Wonderful, the state’s largest grower, expected to start shipping wonderfuls the first week of October with supplies expected to last through January. He said Pom Wonderful will ship about 350,000 cases of pomegranates per week during peak volumes.