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Season about to get underway
High quality California pomegranates will offset lower yields
Bigger, sweeter pomegranates are on the horizon for this season's harvest. The California season is about to get under way and the expectation is for a lower yield which will, however, be offset by the quality of the fruit.
Tom Tjerandsen, of the Pomegranate Council, gives this outlook for the season: "In a typical year, approximately 6,000,000 boxes of pomegranates are produced in the United States for the fresh market. Initial field estimates have shown that this year's harvest will be 15-20% lower than normal. However, the fruit has benefited from winter and spring rains and as a result, we are going to see bigger fruit with more color and sugar content. In recent years, California has experienced dry conditions and this has stressed most stone fruit crops and pomegranate has been no exception."
Domestic and export market strengthening
The growth in the market has been trending upward, thanks partially to sales campaigns and increased exports. Tjerandsen continues, "Retailers are starting to recognize the low labor costs and long shelf-life, as well as it being easily featured and promoted. Pomegranates are typically not the first thing on people's shopping lists, so we have been working with marketers to help promote the health properties of the fruit, among them the high antioxidant levels."
With the growth in the retail market, producers are also benefitting from increased exports. "About 40% of domestic output is exported, mainly to Canada, Korea, Australia and Japan. Brazil is also becoming an important export market and Russia was as well, until embargoes meant that market ceased. It means that domestic supply is limited which has kept prices strong", says Tjerandsen.
Diverse uses fueling growth
The appeal of pomegranates has extended to the foodservice industry where the fruit has been used to add value to already prepared products. Tjerandsen explains, "We've seen pomegranates being used more in the foodservice industry. Examples include pomegranate arils (the edible seed pod inside) being added to ready-made green salads, or in glasses of champagne. The price point of these products is much higher and enhances these suppliers' profit margins."
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