(Oct. 12) Beautiful is the word Chris Kragie, sales manager for Western Fresh Marketing, Madera, Calif., used to describe this year’s California kiwifruit crop.

Other Central Valley shippers’ comments fell in line with Kragie’s take, and they expect strong volume as well.

Quality can’t get any better, said Kurt Cappelluti, sales manager at Fresno, Calif.-based Stellar Distributing Inc. “Mother Nature was phenomenal to the kiwifruit crop this year.”

Bill Warmerdam, owner of Warmerdam Packing, Hanford, Calif., said this is one of the nicest crops he has seen.

On top of favorable quality, the state is estimated to produce more fruit than last year.

California is expected to harvest 7 million tray equivalents, which are about 7 pounds each, this season. If the estimate rings true, it would top the 6.2 million trays packed last year, reports the California Kiwifruit Commission, Sacramento.

Casey Hollnagel, salesman for Stellar, said the overall crop is peaking on 30 and 33 sizes, which are ideal.

“We’re seeing production industry-wide up this year 10% to 15% more than normal,” Hollnagel said.

There is more fruit because of the good set on the vines, Hollnagel said.

Cappulleti added the large sizes also results in more production.

Stellar sees a higher percentage of fruit being packed into boxes, meaning higher packouts.

“It is so big it just fills the boxes that much quicker,” Cappulleti said.

Stellar expects to double its production this season. Cappelluti said this is because the company expanded its grower base, increased its own holdings and there is a heavy set of kiwifruit.

Donna Fagundes, sales manager for Cal Harvest Marketing Inc., Hanford, said most of the crop is No.1 fruit that is peaking in the 30s.

Typically the crop peaks on size 36 or 39, shippers say.

“We’re looking at better volume than last year,” Fagundes said. “It all looks nice going down the line.”

Cal Harvest started packing Oct. 10 and expects to harvest fruit until late November.

Quality looks excellent, she said, and there are very few second grade.

Western Fresh started picking kiwifruit Sept. 19 and plans to pack fruit until mid-November, Kragie said.

After kiwifruit is harvested then it is stored in cold atmosphere rooms for up to six months. Most shippers expect supplies to be available until March or April. Western Fresh plans to have fruit available until April when Chilean kiwifruit production starts.

Kragie said the kiwi industry is getting ready to roll, and by Nov. 1 all California shippers should be up and running with production.