FRESNO, Calif. — While some vineyard and orchard removals — with citrus hardest hit — are a fact of life in the midst of California’s severe drought, fall fruit volumes are likely to rival last year’s on several crops.
All that sunshine doesn’t replenish any reservoirs, but it brings growth on fast in table grapes and tree fruit. Items just entering the pipeline will be a week or so early.
Grapes are vital to California agriculture in the fall, as 60% or more of the crop is harvested after Labor Day.
“We’re going to have plenty of fruit all the way into January,” said Kathleen Nave, president of the Fresno-based California Table Grape Commission.
The trade group’s May forecast was for 116.5 million 19-pound boxes, within shouting distance of last year’s record 117.4 million.
“The hot, dry summer bodes well for the sugar and brix level of the grapes,” said George Matoian, sales and marketing director for Kingsburg-based Visalia Produce Sales Inc. He expects good summer quality to carry over into fall.
Mandarins will probably be a bigger crop than a year ago, said Bob Blakely, director of industry relations for Exeter-based California Citrus Mutual. They typically run October through January, with the satsuma starting as early as mid-September.
Last season growers harvested 26 million 40-pound cartons of tangerines, which include mandarins, according to the National Agricultural Statistics Service.
Navel production could start anytime from early October to November. Heat is likely to ensure adequate sugar for an early start, but coloration could delay the debut.
“We will have fruit available in October, and the industry will have promotable volumes for Thanksgiving ads this year,” said Al Imbimbo, vice president of sales and marketing for Lindsay-based Suntreat Packing & Shipping Co.
Of all California tree fruits citrus has suffered the most from drought, especially in the Orange Cove, Lindsay and Terra Bella areas.
California’s kiwifruit crop is estimated at 7 million tray equivalents, up from 6.8 million last year.
“We think it will be similar volume to last year, which was kind of overwhelming,” said Doug Phillips, owner of Visalia-based Phillips Farms and a member of the Sacramento-based Kiwifruit Administrative Committee.
“But it’s an extremely good market for kiwifruit because of production problems in Chile due to frost.”
Last year’s season was as good as he’s seen in his 40 years in the business, Phillips said.
Sales of California fresh pomegranates grow about 20% annually, according to the Sonoma-based Pomegranate Council. It remains to be seen how crop and demand will match up, but some key producers expect more fruit to be available.
“Fruit sizing is yet to be determined, but we expect a bigger crop than last year,” Tom Rouse, vice president of Los Angeles-based Pom Wonderful, said July 30.
The council estimates 6 million 25-pound box equivalents will be shipped. “We were just under that last year, so we’re looking at a comparable crop,” said Tom Tjerandsen, council manager.
Western Fresh Marketing expects to start production of fuyu persimmons — eaten out of hand like apples — in mid- to late October.
Initial pricing could be higher than usual as the market reacts to persimmons becoming available after a long absence, Kragie said. Chile’s crop suffered massive damage in a freeze earlier this year.
At Giumarra Bros. Fruit Co., Reedley, hachiya persimmons — favored for cooking — will start about Oct. 1, said John Thiesen, division manager. Fuyus come shortly after.
“Last year was a very large crop and produced for the most part a lot of smaller fuyus,” Thiesen said.
Stockton-based Primavera Marketing Inc. began packing gala apples around July 20. It ships about 650,000 boxes yearly, the bulk of the state’s production. Fujis started close to Aug. 18, granny smiths, Aug. 25, and cripps pink will come online in mid-October.
Rich Sambado, sales manager for Primavera, braced for the impact of Washington’s arrival.
“Washington state has an overall monster crop, including a good crop of galas, and they’re going to come out on the aggressive side for price point,” he said in late July.
“They have greater production per acre than California does, which allows them to sell cheaper. We’re going to be the higher cost producer because of our lesser tonnage per acre. That’s never a good thing. I’m concerned that our window is not going to be as wide open and we’re going to overlap a considerable amount with Washington.”