Expanded sourcing helps California cherry shippers

04/21/2010 03:09:35 PM
Andy Nelson

A diversified California cherry deal lets shippers expand their varietal offerings, protects them better from Mother Nature and allows them to ship earlier in the season.

Traver, Calif.-based Scattaglia Growers & Shippers LLC will begin shipping in the southern San Joaquin Valley, near Arvin, switch to the central valley region around Hanford later in the deal, then finish up in the Stockton/Lodi area, said Dave Parker, the company’s marketing director.

Shipping from a variety of regions in the Golden State is good for a number of reasons, Parker said.

For one, it provides some measure of insurance — if one region suffers at the hand of Mother Nature, the other regions can pick up the slack.

Also, shipping from different regions can mean shipping different varieties. Scattaglia’s switch from the southern to the northern half of the valley is largely a switch from earlier varieties to garnets and bings, Parker said.

By contrast, he said, “brookses and tulares are very suitable to the earlier districts.”

It wasn’t always that way, though, Parker said — that is, grower-shippers pulling different varieties from different parts of the state.

Or rather, it did used to be that way, but a long time ago. In the more recent past, production was more centralized.

“If you go way back, there were cherries in Santa Clara,” he said. “For the most part, those are gone, though some are coming back.”

Urbanization ended cherry production in Santa Clara and other areas, Parker said, and the deal planted itself, for the most part, around Stockton and Lodi.

After awhile, though, growers began to see the advantage of diversifying, Parker said.

“Somebody figured out that if you plant in Reedley or Dinuba or Hanford, you can start earlier, and if rain gets one area, you won’t get wiped out,” he said.

In a way, it was “back to the future” for the California cherry industry, Parker said.

“It’s a relatively recent phe-nomenon, but it’s not without precedent,” he said.

Jimmy Williams, domestic and export sales manager for Stockton, Calif.-based Grower Direct Marketing LLC, has noticed a different change in the California deal.

In the past, there was more of a general, steady increase in California inventories as the season progressed. Now, he said, it’s more up and down.

“Now we see two distinct peaks,” he said.

There is, of course, the big bing peak in Stockton and Lodi later in the deal.

What’s new is a spike in the southern deal, around the second week of May, thanks to the maturing of trees planted in the Arvin area in recent years, Williams said.

“The overall acreage hasn’t changed that much in Stockton and Lodi — the new acreage is heavy to the south,” he said.

Despite the new growth in the south, Williams does not characterize the California industry as a whole as being in a period of rapid growth.

The recent memory of Washington growers leaving fruit unpicked in 2009 serves as a cautionary tale, he said.

“California growers are careful to grow wisely,” he said.



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