On-time crop should keep up with growing demand - The Packer

On-time crop should keep up with growing demand

06/22/2012 03:20:00 PM
Melissa Shipman

This year is set to be a great one for figs, with a good harvest set to begin on schedule.

“Last year was incredibly late, about two weeks, and this year we should be 12 to 14 days ahead of that, which will put us right about normal,” said Kevin Herman, owner and president of The Specialty Crop Co., Madera, Calif.

He expects this year’s harvest to provide a good crop to meet a growing demand.

“We’ve had nice, incremental sales increases for quite some time, and we hope that continues again,” Herman said.

Karla Stockli, chief executive officer of the California Fig Advisory Board, Fresno, agrees this year should be a big one.

In 2011, California growers shipped more than 13 million pounds of fresh figs, Stockli said.

She reports that the 2012 supply should exceed that number.

“With the combination of an early spring and above average temperatures, we anticipate outstanding quality and production,” she said.

The harvest began mid-May and should run through December, with each of the five main varieties having a slightly different season.

The tiger fig also is set to have a good year, something growers have been hoping to see for the past two years.

“We’ve been optimistic we’d have more volume, but were finding it was a slow-growing variety that takes longer for maturity. But we feel pretty confident we’ll have decent volumes now for the tiger fig,” he said. “This year looks encouraging.”

The tiger fig variety has been produced in California for about five years, with trees now reaching maturity to produce fruit, but Herman said Specialty Crop Co., which has about 160 acres planted, should have the most volume.

“Other guys maybe have 50 trees or so, so we’ll be the only folks that will have any acreage to speak of,” he said.

This later-maturing variety should be ready around Aug. 1, according to Herman.

Restaurant use for figs continues to grow as well.

“We’ve kind of become the darling of restaurant trade groups, with our fresh picked commission really cultivating those relationships,” Herman said.

“We’re trying to get people excited about using figs as an ingredient,” Herman said.

Those efforts have been largely successful.

He estimates that about 20% of figs go to restaurants, where three to four years ago, that number was closer to 10%.

Potential problems

No major challenges with the crop are expected for this year, and the weather has been pretty normal, according to Herman, but he says that some people are concerned with labor shortages.

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