Some Christmas favorites plentiful, others not

11/21/2012 11:16:00 AM
Andy Nelson

christmas 2012 artCourtesy Pamela RiemenschneiderSome holiday favorites will be plentiful this Christmas, but others could be in short supply.

Cranberries

The Cranberry Network LLC, Wisconsin Rapids, Wis., which markets fruit grown by Tomah, Wis.-based Habelman Bros. Co., expects to pack fresh-market cranberries through mid-December, said Bob Wilson, managing member.

“We’re in outstanding shape,” he said.

This season’s fruit is colorful, high-quality and has a larger size profile than last season, Wilson said.

Habelman Bros. has extended its season in recent years to guarantee fresh-market Christmas supplies, Wilson said. The company should have enough fresh product to fill in some gaps caused by shortages elsewhere, he said.

One of those gaps is in Massachusetts. Carver, Mass.-based Decas Cranberry Products’ crop was off by about 25% this season, said John Decas, board chairman. By the week of Nov. 19 the company had shipped the last of its fresh cranberries.

“It was a smaller crop, and the packouts were lighter than normal,” Decas said.

Industry trends also are moving away from abundant supplies of fresh cranberries at Christmas, Decas said. While newer varieties of cranberries yield better, their shelf life isn’t as long, making it harder to make fruit last until Christmas, he said.

In addition, more customers are buying sweet dried cranberries instead of fresh, he said.

On Nov. 20, the U.S. Department of Agriculture reported prices of $33-34 for cartons of 24 12-ounce film bags of medium howes from Massachusetts, comparable to last year at the same time.

Clementines

Spanish clementine volumes are expected to be 25-30% lower than last season, said John Lazopoulos, Spanish and Moroccan import manager for DNE World Fruit Sales, Fort Pierce, Fla.

That should equate to strong demand in the run-up to Christmas, Lazopoulos said.

“We look to have a very good December,” he said. “We don’t see it weakening as in years past.”

Holiday promotional prices will likely be in the $4.40-4.75 range, Lazopoulos said. The bulk of DNE’s customers will promote in 5-pound boxes, though 3-pound bags also will be a popular option. Some customers will sell both, he said.

California has a big clementine crop this season, Lazopoulos said, but not big enough to meet high demand on the East Coast.

While volumes from Spain are down, quality is excellent and the size profile good, Lazopoulos said.

The USDA reported prices of $5-5.50 for 5-pound containers of clementines 15-24s from Spain, up from $4.75-5.25 last year.

Potatoes

Potato movement should be brisk in the month leading up to Christmas, said Kevin Stanger, vice president of sales and marketing for Idaho Falls, Idaho-based Wada Farms Marketing Group.

“Volume’s not as heavy as Thanksgiving, but it’s a good month for potatoes,” he said. “It will be a good opportunity to promote.”

As for markets, which have been sluggish, Stanger is less optimistic.

“I wish I could say they’ll go up, but I think they’ll stay fairly steady,” he said. “Demand is good, but there’s not a lot of movement” on prices.

The USDA reported prices of $5.50-6 for 50-pound cartons of russets 40-70s from Idaho, down from $9.50-10 last year.

Pomegranates

Some years California pomegranate shippers have fruit for Christmas, some years they don’t, said Jeff Simonian, vice president of sales and marketing for Fowler, Calif.-based Simonian Fruit Co.

This year Simonian will definitely have pomegranates.

“We had a pretty good sized crop,” he said. “I think supplies will be plentiful through Christmas and into the new year.”

Prices should stay fairly steady in the run-up to Christmas, Simonian said.

Both interior and exterior quality were good in mid-November, he said.

The USDA reported a price of $22.25 for cartons of two-layer wonderfuls 20-24s from California, down from $26.10-28.10.



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