( Courtesy Prune Bargaining Association )

California Prune growers are facing a 28% drop in prices and a 23% cut in crop deliveries.

The price and production drops come despite a number of positive items for the industry, including the U.S. Department of Agriculture buying millions of dollars of their product, positive trade mitigation offsets and promotion efforts in Japan and elsewhere.

A number of factors, including the COVID-19 pandemic, contributed to the double hit, according to a news release from the Prune Bargaining Association, which recently had its annual membership meeting by video conference.

Average grower returns in some cases will drop by more than $500 per ton from the previous year, according to the association.

“Growers are to be commended for the tremendous efforts they have made to match production with demand,” Greg Thompson, the association’s general manager, said in the release. “Growers were told they would be paid little or nothing for smaller prunes, so they increased their efforts to prune, thin, and then screen out fruit at harvest, bringing the crop down from an estimated 110,000 tons to 85,000 tons.”

The losses offset a number of positives in the industry, including:

Imports of prunes are down 76% for the first five months of the year;

  • Domestic shipments are up 13%;
  • USDA programs were designed to offset retaliatory tariffs;
  • Shipments to Japan are up 14% from last year;
  • The USDA has purchased nearly $50 million in prunes over the past three years; and
  • Nutrition research supports prune consumption.

"Everbody wants to make a health claim these days," Ranvir Singh, Prune Bargaining Association president, said in the release. "But prunes are the tried and true healthy and completely natural food. There is so much more to the health benefits of eating prunes than anyone first imagined."

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