Frost, hail take toll on California kiwifruit

08/13/2012 10:54:00 AM
Vicky Boyd

Localized weather problems coupled with an already light fruit set have conspired to reduce the 2012-13 California kiwifruit crop, based on the initial crop estimate.

But it appears the ensuing mild spring weather has benefitted the remainder of the crop, said Nick Matteis of Ag Association Management Services Inc., Sacramento, Calif.

“It looks like we’ll have good size distribution,” he said. “It’s a good looking crop, and we expect good quality.”

The Sacramento-based Kiwifruit Administrative Committee agreed to a conservative crop estimate of 6.2 million 7-pound tray equivalents at its July 11 meeting in Modesto, Calif.

That compares to the 2011-12 crop, which is expected to finish with about 9.2 million trays, and the 2010-11 crop, which was about 8.5 million trays, Matteis said.

“We had frost and hail in the southern production area, which hit some growers fairly hard,” Matteis said.

“The fruit set was already down, we’re guessing, 15% to 20%.”

He said it’s also too early in the growing season to determine how individual pieces of fruit will size, which could affect the overall crop estimate.

Harvest start

Chris Kragie, sales manager for Western Fresh Marketing, Madera, Calif., said he thinks the committee’s estimate was probably low and that this year’s crop is more in the 7 million to 7.7 million tray range.

The Italian kiwifruit crop, which competes directly with California’s, also is projected to be down about 25%, he said.

California’s kiwifruit acreage is split, with about two-thirds in the southern San Joaquin Valley and about one-third in the northern Sacramento Valley.

John Fagundes, president of Cal Harvest, the marketing arm of Fagundes Agribusiness, Hanford, Calif., said he expects to start harvest in early October.

But the actual start date will depend on test results on dry matter, which University of California studies have shown is a good indication of consumer acceptance.

“It’s somewhat of a higher standard than what the industry has set,” he said.

Cal Harvest also preconditions kiwifruit using ethylene for about the first 30 days after harvest to promote ripening.

This will be the third season that the operation is offering kiwifruit under the Cal King label in 3-pound clamshells in addition to 4-pounders for club stores.

The slightly smaller packaging is a hit, Fagundes said.

“The 3-pound for us has been going really well,” he said, adding the pack is available for conventional and organic kiwifruit.


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