With new acreage coming on every year, the push is on to develop more offshore markets for California pomegranates.
Fortunately for growers, residents of other countries know and love pomegranates, and California’s big red globe is quite different than those produced locally, said Tom Tjerandsen, manager of the Sonoma, Calif.-based Pomegranate Council.
Southeast Asian pomegranates are traditionally pale and small, about the size of a golf or tennis ball, Tjerandsen said.
“The California pomegranate is exceptional. It competes ably with pomegranates produced in other parts of the world.”
“We see substantial increases in demand from these new international markets.”
Jeff Simonian, vice president of sales and marketing for Fowler, Calif.-based Simonian Fruit Co., said exports are now 40% of his business and growing.
“Probably 60% to 70% of our exports go to South Korea. They use a huge amount,” Simonian said.
Taiwan, Australia, Japan, Russia and, some years, Brazil are also looking for California pomegranates, he said.
Justin Bedwell, president of Madera, Calif.-based Bari Produce LLC, said South Korea has been a good market for several years, but Taiwan is importing more fruit.
“They like to follow the U.S. lead, and they’re becoming a stronger market, so maybe they can take some of our volume,” Bedwell said.
David Anthony, domestic and Canadian salesman for Firebaugh, Calif.-based Oro Loma Ranch’s Ruby Fresh Pomegranates, said exports were light last season because of shorter supplies, but he expects normal exports to resume this year with strong demand from the Pacific Rim and South America as well as Canada and Mexico.
Ray England, vice president of marketing for Reedley, Calif.-based D.J. Forry Co., also reports a brisk export business.
“A large percentage of our crop is exported,” England said.
“That helps us overall because quality standards have to be exceptional to put pomegranates in a shipping container for a week or two, and it’s the same fruit we’re shipping domestically,” he said.
Simonian said the main challenge in shipping overseas is getting the product to arrive in good condition after a long journey.
Rules and regulations that change, sometimes in the middle of a season, can also cause headaches, he said, and getting paid is always a concern.