A smaller size profile, combined with an earlier start to southeast U.S. deals, limited demand for early-season California peaches in early May, but movement is expected to increase as Golden State production moves north later this month.

Demand for California peaches from the Arvin region was sluggish the week of May 9, said Angie Eastham, West Coast sales manager for Pacific Trellis Fruit, Reedley, Calif.

“We’re quite puzzled by it,” Eastham said. “It’s very slow compared to previous years.”

One possible reason for the slow movement, she said, could be that Florida and Georgia got out of the gate earlier than usual this year.

Also, sizing in Arvin has been small thus far, with fewer 40s and 56s than in a typical year, Eastham said. Typically, California fruit finds a niche on the East Coast because it is usually larger than southeast fruit.

On May 10, boxes of size-64 peaches from California were selling for $32-34 on the Los Angeles terminal market, up from $30-32 last year at the same time.

Peach demand should pick up, however, when Pacific Trellis begins shipping peaches from the Reedley area, where fruit is expected to be larger, Eastham said.

Reedley shipments should begin peaking the first or second week of June, with as much as 20,000 boxes per week from the region, she said. Retail ads on California peaches should start in late June.

While sizing was small on the Arvin fruit, quality was very good with high brix levels, thanks in part to newer varieties shipping from the region, Eastham said.

Because of the low volumes early in the month, demand for peaches was exceeding supply, said Dave Goforth, salesman for Reedley-based Mountain View Fruit Sales Inc.
As volumes increase, however, that could change.

“Promotions will be very important this year, as they were last year,” Goforth said. “Retailers will have many options.”

Mountain View expected peach and nectarine volumes to begin peaking the first week of June, with plum peaks expected to begin about June 10.

Demand for Arvin nectarines was better in early May, Eastham said.

Nectarines were expected to be the first stone fruit out of the gate for Reedley-based Brandt Farms Inc., with shipments expected to begin late the week of May 16, said Mike Reimer, sales director.

Yellow peaches were expected to follow about May 23, and plums the last week of May, Reimer said.

“So far, the quality looks really good,” Reimer said May 10. “We had a bit of rain yesterday, but there haven’t been reports of damage.”

While it was too early in the season to forecast markets, Reimer was optimistic heading into the California deals.

“A lot of people are anxious to get going,” he said.

California peaches face Southeast competition