Pre-booking takes share of California artichokes

09/01/2004 12:00:00 AM
Chris Koger

(Sept. 1) California artichoke shippers are entering their fall harvest period, but even as volumes increase through late October, product on the open market won’t be plentiful.

That’s because a lot of the artichokes grown in the fall have been pre-booked to retailers that use the fall production surge to promote them, said Bob Polovneff, sales manager at Ocean Mist Farms, Castroville, Calif.

“Right now, we have a pretty good number of artichokes coming in, and we’re running promos on all sizes,” Polovneff said. “A lot of (retailers) have booked and tied up the volume, but there are still limited supplies on the open market.”

Castroville is the heart of the California artichoke production, seeing a 20% increase in crop values in Monterey County last year, to $45.8 million, according to the Monterey County Agricultural Commission, Salinas.

Although there’s year-round production, there are two main crops, the fall crop and the spring crop, which begins in late February and lasts through April.

On Aug. 30, cartons of thorned artichokes ranged from $22.35 for 18s to $12.35-16.45 for the smaller 60s, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

Thornless cartons were $18-20 for 18s, $18 for 24s and $14 for 30s. On Sept. 2, 2003, thorned 18s were $16.35-22.35, 24s were $16.35-18.35 and 36s were $8.35-9.35.

Prices last year were higher on average. California shippers received an average of $73.40 per cwt. in 2003, compared to $71.50 in 2002 and $58.60 in 2001, when acreage was higher, according to the National Agricultural Statistics Service.

Pat Hopper, manager of the California Artichoke Advisory Board, said acreage for the 2003-04 fiscal year was 7,381 acres, compared to 6,995 in 2002-03 and 8,097 in 2001-02.

John Giusti, owner of Giusti Farms, Half Moon Bay, Calif., said his 70-acre green globe crop is on a different cycle than the large-scale Castroville production, but he’ll harvest small quantities through the winter, peaking with the spring crop.

“I’ve been in this deal for 20 years, and demand is pretty consistent, but I’ve seen a greater demand in the smaller-sized arthichokes,” Giusti said. “There’s more consumer awareness on how to prepare them properly.”



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