Referred to as a “naturally dried fruit” by their growers, dates have a moisture content of about 30% at harvest. The 2011 crop in California is expected to come in at 122,000 dried tons, according to the California Agricultural Statistics Service.
Lorrie Cooper, manager of the California Date Administrative Committee, Indio, said production out of the Coachella Valley was just more than 38 million pounds in 2010. This year they are predicting 45 million pounds, with similar growth expected in the coming years as additional acres come into production.
The Bard Valley Medjool Date Growers Association, Bard, Calif., projects a 10% to 15% increase in yields this year for a total crop of about 10 million pounds. There are about a dozen growers in the association, which accounts for 70% of the U.S. medjool date crop, according to Dave Anderson, marketing director.
Fresh medjool dates and deglet noor dates from California recently earned certification from the American Heart Association to carry the heart-check mark, signifying they meet nutritional guidelines set by the association for low levels of saturated fat and cholesterol.
June rains in California’s prune orchards aggravated problems some growers were having with brown rot, according to Joe Connell, University of California farm adviser. He said many orchards also suffered hail damage, which means more fruit will be going to less profitable juice processors instead of the fresh market.
The USDA’s crop prediction from NASS shows a 4% decrease for 2011 volumes of dried plums (prunes). That could help boost prices for the fruit, which has seen decreased demand in recent years.
Joe Bauer, director of Stapleton-Spence Packing Co., San Jose, Calif., said he expects about 120,000 tons this year, compared to the 170,000 tons harvested in 2010. It is an off-year for prune plums, which means the fruit is larger.
“We don’t have any idea on pricing yet. It’s too early to tell,” Bauer said Sept. 21.
Prices for raisins could be in the record range with the 2011 crop because of shrinking acreage and higher demand from the wine industry, which is increasing competition for thompson seedless grapes.
The Raisin Bargaining Association, Fresno, Calif., reported earlier this year that prices have nearly doubled since 2002 to a near-record high of $1,500 per ton. In late September, the Fresno Bee reported the pricing war had caused two raisin packers to increase prices to a record $1,700 per ton.