California fresh fig growers look forward to solid production - The Packer

California fresh fig growers look forward to solid production

04/26/2011 11:14:48 AM
Mike Hornick

Courtesy California Fresh Fig Growers Association

MADERA, Calif. — Above-average spring rainfall and warming temperatures will mean solid supplies of California figs this summer, said Karla Stockli, chief executive officer of the California Fresh Fig Growers Association.

The state’s fresh fig production is estimated at 12 million to 13 million pounds in 2011. It was 12 million last year.

The season begins in mid-May and continues through December. It begins with the breba crop, but production doesn’t peak until August when all varieties are in full swing.

Black mission, sierra and brown turkey figs also start harvesting in mid-May. The kadota variety kicks off in mid-June, and Calimyrna in mid-July.

The central San Joaquin Valley — including Madera, Chowchilla, Merced and Fresno — is a key fig production area, as are the Coachella Valley and northern California.

“The industry expects to continue to see a slight increase in new plantings of figs throughout the state of California,” Stockli said. “(That) will contribute to a consistent flow of fresh figs into the market from mid-May to January, and a consistent supply of dried figs throughout the year.”

A prior decline in fig-bearing acreage was due largely to marginal orchards being replaced with higher-value crops and to housing growth, Stockli said.

“I believe we have an excellent first crop,” Maury DeBenedetto, owner of Fresno-based DeBenedetto Fruit Co., said in April. “We depend entirely on surface water for irrigation at our ranch, so the rain’s been very welcome.”

California produces 98% of fresh figs in the U.S., according to Stockli, and all dried figs.

“The fresh fig industry is still growing,” said DeBenedetto, who harvest 450 acres. “There’s still new interest. The dried fig side is just holding its own.”

“Demand (for fresh) seems excellent,” he said. “I just spoke to a customer in Boston who’s getting excited because it’s 41 degrees there, and they’re ready for summer fruits.”

George Kragie, president of Western Fresh Marketing, Madera, said he planted an additional 60 acres in Chowchilla. He also has kadota and brown turkey trees there that are in their fifth year.

“We’ll see more and more in production.," he said. "Black mission look like a very good crop, but I don’t know if we’ll see the bumper crop per tree like last year. It’s been cooler.”

On the marketing side, the California Fig Advisory Board has proclaimed 2011 the “Year of the Fig.” Recipes, brochures, a calendar and other tie-ins are available online at http://californiafigs.com.

The effort tries to capitalize, among other things, on the designation of the fig as the top emerging fruit by the International Association of Culinary Professionals and Les Dames D’escoffier International, Stockli said.



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