Karst chat with Barry Bedwell: On the next step for the California tree fruit industry

03/31/2011 12:17:02 PM
Tom Karst

3:12 p.m. Karst: How is the grower economy right now for grape and tree fruit growers?

3:13 p.m. Bedwell: I think overall the fresh table grape people are again doing okay because they are in a situation where their growth is more controlled. You are dealing with only 500 table grape growers. Forty years ago, there were 1,500 growers (producing) 20 million boxes and now we have 500 growers growing about a 100 million boxes. Even at that, we still have primarily small and medium size growers. There is still growth in both export and domestic for table grapes. They are continuing to look at new varieties, but it is controlled. There is a discipline within the industry that does a good job. I think the California Table Grape Commission deserves much of the credit in the communications, information and the promotions they have done in the last four plus decades. That is one marketing order and commission that is very much an example for others to follow. I think there is some good things and stability in that sector.

On the other hand, when you look at peaches, plums and nectarines, we had a very tough year in 2008, saw somewhat of an improvement in 2010 with a shorter crop, but in 2010 that trend immediately reversed itself and overall not a good year economically for tree fruit growers and brought out the long going discussion about the need for reduction in the number of acres, and where will the profitable level be for peaches, plums and nectarines. We saw some acres pulled over the winter. This is good question now: will we be able to continue with the amount of information and estimates in 2011 that we expect normally to get from CTFA? I’m not sure. How will that void be filled?

Last year, given a crop, particularly on peaches that were later than normal in California compared to other areas of the country that were earlier than normal for peaches, I think that presented some definite marketing challenges and showed up in the returns of these growers. They are hoping for a bounce back in 2011. Now the question is, given the pressures that may follow (rainy) weather, will growers be able to effectively deal with them? We have a long ways to go in the growing season.



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