There should be plentiful supplies of fruit available from California this fall thanks to ample volume of table grapes and new, later varieties of what once was considered “summer” fruit.
In fact, most of the 13 commodities that the Fresno-based California Fresh Fruit Association represents now are in season, and president Ian LeMay said consumers are in for a treat no matter which one they pick up.
“Our members have said the fruit is eating fantastic this year,” he said. “Brix levels have really come through, and coloring has been good.”
Table grapes probably are the No. 1 fall fruit, with 60% or more of the crop coming off after Sept. 1.
Table grapes kick off their season in the spring in California’s Coachella Valley, and the program moves to the San Joaquin Valley in July.
They can be shipped into January, even after the harvest is over.
“Table grapes are definitely a fall fruit,” LeMay said. “We see people enjoying them throughout the holiday season — Thanksgiving, Halloween, Christmas,” he said.
The industry seems pleased with the current table grape crop.
“It’s looking like a good year,” he said.
Growers are adding new and proprietary varieties every year in response to consumer and retailer demand.
A number of other commodities still are going strong as well.
Late plums seem to be particularly in vogue this season.
“Some of the best-eating plums are in the late-season timeframe,” LeMay said.
California pears are available during the fall as well.
Weather this season has been favorable for California fruit.
“We had a strong bloom in the spring, which led to a good set for many of our commodities,” LeMay said.
The winter was “drier than we would like to see,” he said, adding that growers already have their eyes on the 2020-21 water season that starts in October.
“We’ll hope for an early wet winter this year to make sure that our reservoirs and our underground aquifers are full,” he said.
As has been the case for the past four or five seasons, labor has been “tight.”
“We’re a labor-intensive crop,” he said of California’s fall fruit deal.
With workers hard to come by at times, and the state’s minimum wage rising every year, grower-shippers are looking at mechanization to introduce efficiencies into the production process, LeMay said.
California fruit is enjoyed well beyond the U.S.
LeMay estimated that 35% to 40% of the state’s fresh fruit is exported.
“China continues to be a work in progress,” he said, because of the ongoing trade dispute.
The Phase 1 trade deal that was signed early this year resulted in some tariff reductions, but other tariffs and taxes remain.
Trade with China has improved, LeMay said, “but it’s nowhere near the level of trade that we saw prior to the dispute.”
He said he would like to see tariffs reduced or eliminated entirely.
California has trading partners throughout the world, including, Mexico, Canada, Australia, Japan, New Zealand and additional countries where demand for the state’s fruit remains strong, he said.