Chris DeBenedetto, marketing director for J&R Orchards, Chowchilla, Calif., said even with a bit of fruit drop because of high winds in early May, volumes were better than he expected with the breba. Things are looking just as good for the main crop, he said.
Stockli estimates the state will ship about 11 million pounds of fresh figs this year. Slightly fewer acres are in production this year, but the predicted yield is similar to harvests in 2011 and 2010, when numbers were down because of excessive heat and early-season rain, respectively.
Dry driving fresh price
The strong showing for 2013’s fig crop is good news that will just keep getting better as the season continues, Stockli said.
Early starts and strong volumes from the breba crop are helping retailers snag consumers now, she said. The high quality flavor of the early crop will generate ongoing consumer demand and the strong yields expected from the main crop will enable retailers to meet that demand through the end of the year.
Produce managers aren’t the only ones interested in the fresh crop this year. With virtually no holdovers in storage for the fig processing sector, growers and marketers in the fresh sector expect good prices.
Stockli said she thought prices would be “a few dollars higher” this year for fresh California figs. As president of the growers association, Herman said in some ways, it is a growers’ market.
“I think most ranches are set to pick fresh for the price, if the price is there. If it’s not, there will be enough demand from the dry side that growers will just wait,” Herman said, adding that while dry figs bring lower prices, they are vastly less expensive to harvest because they are not handpicked.
From a marketer’s point of view, Kragie at Western Fresh said the anticipated demand for dry has already given fresh figs a good floor price.