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US (CA): Lighter crop, good prices for plums

The effects of this spring's hail and wind storms in California are evident in a light plum crop. Volume is expected to be less than in previous years with prices reaching slightly higher levels.

Although the storm affected different regions in different ways, the overall crop will be lighter than usual, according to Doug Sankey, marketing manager at the Sunwest Fruit Company in Parlier. But the quality of remaining fruit will be good, he said.

“Weather during our growing season will result in light supplies,” said Sankey. “But other than occasional scarring, quality will be excellent. Brix levels will be high, making for good quality fruit.”

Bob Maxwell, director of sales at Kingsburg Orchards in Kingsburg, also predicted a light season with good quality; a situation that will lead to strong prices for fruit.

“The plum crop is normal to below-normal,” he said. “Weather issues mean volume is down, demand is really good, so prices will be good.” He added that, over the years, there have been fewer stone fruit growers in California. With demand holding strong, there has been less fruit for a growing customer base, making for more attractive prices.

On June 6, the U.S. Department of Agriculture reported that prices for a 28-pound carton of larger-sized plums were in the $28.10-32.10.

Harvesting, which got underway in the San Joaquin Valley as early as two weeks ago, will stretch longer into the year, approaching fall. Though the industry typically harvests into September, Sankey said Sunwest will plant varieties of plums which they'll harvest well into October. That's in line with a trend toward making plums more of a fall item, he said.

Likewise, Maxwell said Kingsburg Orchard's season is also getting longer.

“We start harvesting plums on the coast in April, so we get an early start,” he said. Peak volumes are usually reached around the Fourth of July holiday, and availability should last into October or even Thanksgiving, said Maxwell.

Publication date: 6/8/2012
Author: Carlos Nunez
Copyright: www.freshplaza.com


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