(Aug. 20) CASTROVILLE, Calif. — Higher production should come soon for the California artichoke industry, whose fall peak spans mid-September to mid-October.

“Everything is looking very good,” said Joe Micheli Jr., harvest manager for Ocean Mist Farms. “Quality is looking very good, and we’re going to have a good fall.”

Weather, not only in California but also in Eastern markets, will play a large role in markets ahead, said Kris Capurro, partner in Capurro Marketing LLC, Moss Landing, Calif.

If weather is cool enough in the fields, the artichokes will be able to reach larger sizes, which sell better, Capurro said.

“They’re a lot more popular,” he said.

Plus, cooler weather on the East Coast also influences consumers to use more cooking vegetables like artichokes, Capurro said.

Markets could stabilize through the heavier production if shippers plan promotions and limit open-market supplies during peak production, he said.

On Aug. 19, Capurro said cartons of thorned artichokes were selling for $24.75 for sizes 24 and larger and anywhere from $8-16 on smaller sizes. Supplies of green globes were slim, he said.

The same time last year, cartons of size 24 green globes were quoted at $20.35-20.50, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

By Sept. 4, prices for the 24s had gone down to $18.35-20.50, and by Sept. 24, they were at $16.50-18.35, according to the USDA.

Ocean Mist will have larger-sized artichokes but probably will peak more on medium sizes, Micheli said. Maggie Bezart, Ocean Mist’s vice president of sales and marketing, said the medium and baby artichokes have been very popular with consumers.

The company has showcased the medium and baby artichokes through its promotions, with newspaper and magazine editors and in leading restaurants, she said.

The big peak for California’s artichoke production comes in the spring, usually in April, shippers say.

The fall peak pales in comparison. Plus, before the fall peak comes, heat traditionally causes a low point in production for the artichokes, said Pat Hopper, manager of the California Artichoke Advisory Board.

Ocean Mist, which has increased its plantings to 5,000 acres, expects 15% more volume over last year, Bezart said.

Hopper said the state had 8,097 acres of artichokes for the 2001-02 season, which ended June 30. Acreage for the new crop should be down by at least 100 acres, but production should remain steady thanks to improved growing techniques, she said.

The USDA reported California’s artichoke acreage at 8,000 in 2001, compared to 8,800 in 2000 and 9,800 in 1999.

Micheli said some people often assume the industry won’t have good production after the fall peak. That’s not the case, he said.

“We are looking at good production through the holidays,” Micheli said, referring to Thanksgiving and Christmas.