DINUBA, Calif. — Nectarines are becoming something of a paradox in the California stone fruit industry. After years of gaining on king peach, the momentum of nectarine varieties has slowed.
In 2008, grower-shippers produced 22.3 million cartons of white-flesh and yellow-flesh nectarines, according to the California Tree Fruit Agreement, Reedley, just 1.4 million cartons fewer than the peach deal.
This year’s nectarine volume is forecast at 17.6 million cartons, 21% below the 2008 nectarine deal and nearly three million fewer cartons than the volume expected from this season’s peaches.
However, white-flesh varieties of nectarines should generate 4.4 million cartons as opposed to a projected 5.1 million cartons of white-flesh peaches. The 700,000 carton difference is about the same as last year.
One reason for the reduced nectarine volume is that fewer trees are in production.
“I’ve seen more stone fruit trees pulled since last season than at nearly any other time I can remember,” said Dale Janzen, director of industry relations for the Tree Fruit Agreement.
The smaller volume has resulted in moderately stronger prices this season.
On Aug. 10, the U.S. Department of Agriculture reported prices of $17.10 for two-layer tray packs of 40-42s, and $15.10-16.10 for 48-50s.
Nectarine prices are up markedly from year ago f.o.b.s. On Aug. 25, 2008, the USDA reported prices for cartons of yellow-flesh varieties, 34-36s and 40-42s, were $10-12, while 48-50s were going for $10-11.
As was the case with peaches, year ago prices of white-flesh nectarine varieties were slightly lower compared to this year. Cartons of 40-42s were attracting $12-13 with 48-50s fetching $10-11.
The flavor and quality of this year’s nectarine deal are excellent, said Jim Stewart, president of WesPak Sales Inc. September brite and summer blush, both yellow-flesh varieties, will be WesPak’s nectarine offerings available through September, he said.
“Though the volume is down this year, the fruit is outstanding,” Stewart said. “The newer varieties have great flavor and excellent color. They’re a great opportunity for fall retail promotions.”
The harvest of September reds at Simonian Fruit Co., Fowler, is scheduled to begin the first week in September, said Jeannine Martin, sales manager. The company’s other late season nectarine, September brite, will start coming off the trees about a week later. Both varieties will be available into October, she said.
The late season nectarine variety at SunWest Fruit Co. Inc., Parlier, also is the September brite. Good supplies of the nectarine will be available into October, said Doug Sankey, vice president of marketing.