US plum supplies improving after slow start

After a slow start to the season, California plums are now in good supply. As the varieties tick over from early to mid-season, volumes are steadily increasing. Early season fruit suffered from the cold weather in spring, but these are now finishing up and the mid-season fruit is in its peak. 

"The plum season started a couple of weeks later than last year because of the cold weather during the bloom," said Chris Tantau of Venida Packing in Exeter. "The first varieties were considerably lighter in volume, but we are now transitioning to the mid-season varieties. These will have a normal to heavy crop and we expect to have strong, promotable supplies from now until the end of the season. We are still tracking about two weeks late, but conditions have been very good and the fruit quality is good to excellent."

Some of the bigger volume varieties are now in full production. "One of the major varieties is the Owen T, which is a large black plum and one of the largest in the industry," Tantau added. "It's also one of the notable export varieties and we are in the middle of that now. Crimson Glo has commenced harvest this week, while the Fortune will be following next week." 

Market expected to ease from highs
While the start of the season typically sees strong pricing, this year was enhanced by the light volumes on the early fruit. Prices were very high but are easing as the mid-season varieties see stronger volumes and more steady supply. Demand also tends to dip in July as people travel more during this month. Suppliers are preparing for strong promotions as the season matures.

Owen T plum

"The market was very high early as demand exceeded supply," Tantau observed. "Currently, the market is trying to stabilize to mid-season pricing, now that retailers have promotable supply. Despite the traditional lull in July, we are seeing good uptake and repeat business and will shortly be seeing the large late summer promotions starting."

On the export front, the tariff situation has impacted on plum exports to China. However, Tantau noted that it is not causing as big of an impact as it has to other products. "The recent tariffs have put a standstill on exports to China," he said. "However, fruit is feeling the effects less than other commodities such as nuts and soybeans. It does mean, however, that importers will now be absorbing a greater cost."

Darker colored plums and bags seeing most interest
It seems that consumers are favoring the darker colored plums and growers are therefore integrating more of these varieties into their programs now and into the future. The visual appeal has been cited as the reason for the growth in popularity. There is also another varietal which is adding to the many twists on plums, but is still in very limited supply.

"We are trying to transition to newer varieties with darker skin and red flesh which we will look into developing further in the future," Tantau shared. "They seem to be more popular among consumers due to the visual appeal, with the perception that they are sweeter. We also have seen cherry plums which are a patented variety. Only a handful of shippers carry them at this stage. The cherry plum is one of the newest types in the plum category and has been up and coming over the last several years."

Tantau also noted the increase in interest for bags. "The industry trend is for more packaging in 2lb bags," he noted. "There is more competition among the discount stores, which is prompting more smaller sized fruit to be packed in bags. Clamshells are still popular among the club stores, but overall, the bagging programs have seen the biggest uptick."

For more information:
Chris Tantau 
Venida Packing
Tel: +1 (559) 592-2816

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