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The stone fruit season in a few countries in the Northern Hemisphere looks promising, while it is also up to 10 days earlier. This is due to warmer weather during spring, which favours faster growing of the nectarines, peaches and flat peaches or paraguayos. Spain, as Europe's major stone fruit growing country and exporter, is 10 days earlier with very good prospects for the 2024 season, that will be better than last year. Despite a 4% reduction in the planted area of peaches in Italy, an up to 35% peaches volume increase is expected compared to 2023 in the North of the country.

In Germany, there is good supply of mainly Spanish nectarines, but it is lacking demand forcing retailers to lower prices. Italy, Turkey and Greece provide complementary supply on German markets. In France, harvesting of peaches and nectarines has just started. No significant climatic accidents were reported, so French production potential should be around 230,000 tonnes, estimated to be 5% above 2023 levels. Serbia is seeing increasing plantings of peaches and nectarines, but it is mostly for the local market consumption. Belgium has a lot of demand for Spanish stone fruit, with good prices reported for paraguayos, nectarines and peaches in particular.

In the Netherlands, the market for Spanish stone fruit remains relatively calm. Stone fruit usually has better sales in both Belguim and the Netherlands as the weather warms, but with little sunshine unlike in the rest of Europe that is seeing warmer days, the appetite and demand is not there yet. Israel had a slower start to their stone fruit season in April due to colder spring weather that has now suddenly switched to heatwaves of 46 degrees, that is speeding up the ripening of the stone fruit.

North America will have a better stone fruit supply over 2023. California's stone fruit season is ahead of last year at this time by about 10 days. The harvest started with peaches and nectarines and plums will begin this weekend. In South Africa, where the stone fruit is in winter rest, a warm May has historically affected the early peaches and nectarines of the next season, which will most likely be the case again. China's nectarines is heading to the harvesting peak period, with a lack of experienced labour a concern. Growers there say this year looks to be like a perfect season, due to the ideal climate conditions that led to good growth with large sizes and higher sugar content. Nectarines are mainly sold to the Guangdong Guangxi province, and some have been exported to Russia.

Spain: Production normality returns
Without significant climatic accidents in the spring and with a general advance throughout Spain of around 10 days compared to the previous season, this year the peach, paraguayan, pavia and nectarine campaign will be slightly above that registered in the previous year. It will reach 1,501,678 tons, that is, 1% more than in 2023, and 12% more than the average of the last five years.

According to data prepared by Agro-food Cooperatives of Spain, nectarine, which represents the largest volume in the group of products analyzed, would reach 590,896 t. (+1% compared to 2023); The Paraguayan peach is next in production with 310,873 t (-4%), the pavia (yellow peach) with 307,542 t (+6%), and the peach with 292,367 t (+0.23%).

The climate, in an autumn and winter officially classified as extremely warm and very warm (respectively), and a spring without serious frost problems, has meant that there have been no significant losses in this campaign. In regions such as Murcia the high temperatures in the dormant period of trees have impacted the production of peaches. From La Cieza they explained that "due to this lack of cold, there are varieties with certain requirements for cold hours that have had irregular vegetation and inadequate fruit set, which will make their production lower than those of previous campaigns."

In Extremadura, harvesting has also already started, "although the supply is still very limited, we hope to start having significant volumes of peaches and nectarines starting this week 21 and availability will continue to increase in the coming weeks," producers from the region explain.

Finally, a producer from Aragon explained: "In about 20 days we will start with nectarine and paraguayos peaches, and already in July we will begin the yellow peach campaign. In nectarine, peach and paraguayos fruit setting has gone well and we see that there is more fruit on the trees than last year; However, the latest rains have caused the oldest paraguayos varieties to see fruit with the pistil closure open, which is affected by cracking, so there may be some decline in that aspect. Finally, regarding the caliber, for now, there is still uncertainty, due to the heavy load on the trees and the intermittent episodes of extreme cold and heat that we have experienced."

Italy: Up to 35% peach volume increase expected compared to 2023
In Italy, the peach acreage continues to decrease slightly (-4% compared to 2023, -7% compared to 2022). The decrease is more pronounced in the north of the country only for peaches, while nectarines remain almost stable, which is a novelty compared to the past. For the most part, the central and southern regions show limited declines. Initial estimates for national production are +3% in the southern regions and +35% in northern Italy compared to 2023 (data will be updated in the coming weeks).

Sales of peaches and nectarines in Italy and abroad are currently good, but not very high. In any case, the quantities are not such as to cause concern about possible surpluses. This was stated by the manager of a large cooperative in northern Italy, which has member growers all over the country. Production has been brought forward by about 10 days and this has resulted in fruit sizes that are not very large. Because the market rewards large sizes, prices are satisfactory but not very high. Organic peaches and nectarines are also selling well.

The stone fruit season in Campania has begun with optimism, albeit tempered by the unpredictable impact of the weather on consumer demand. A local grower reflects on the current campaign, which started 10 days earlier than last year and runs from late April or early May to early October. This season's range includes peaches, white peaches, flat peaches, nectarines and apricots. Although production levels are generally satisfactory, there's a slight decline on last year, with stone fruit volumes down 3% overall and clingstone peaches down 8%. Fruit sizes were smaller at the start of the season, but sizes are expected to normalise as the season progresses. It is hoped that warmer summer weather will increase consumer demand and allow full production capacity to be utilised.

In Calabria, a prominent producer organisation is in the midst of a busy stone fruit season, focusing on peaches, nectarines and flat peaches grown using biodynamic methods. "We started at the beginning of May and will finish around 30 June. We had a lower yield of peaches in May because the alternation of hot and cold weather caused problems with flowering and fruit set. However, the quality is very good, with large size and good flavour. Eighty per cent of our stone fruit production goes abroad, where our fruit is more highly valued"

Since the end of May, varieties of flat nectarines and peaches grown by a specialist farm in the Marche region have also been on the market. The campaign will last until September. In the course of 2025, the range of yellow-fleshed flat nectarines and white and yellow-fleshed flat peaches will be further expanded.

According to GfK Consumer Panel Services, peaches were bought by almost 70% of Italian households in the year ending April 2024.

Germany: Good supply, lacklustre demand
Spanish batches obviously dominated the market for both yellow-fleshed and white-fleshed fruit with a total market share of more than 73% for nectarines. Supplies from Italy and Turkey had at most a complementary character. Greek offerings only appeared in very small quantities in Frankfurt.

Overall, the quality was convincing, with the exception of early Italian products. Availability had increased compared to the previous week, while the demand was lacking a bit. As a result, retailers were often forced to lower their price offers. In general, stonefruit was quite cheap at the start of the European season. Furthermore, platerinas and paraguayos had a big market share so far.

France: Harvesting has just started
Apart from tunnel orchards, peach and nectarine harvesting began last week. French production will be on a par with last year, following good flowering and fruit set. French growers have not reported any significant climatic accidents, so French production potential should be around 230,000 tonnes, 5% above 2023 and 22% higher than the 2018/2022 average.

For paraguayos, most of the produce comes from Spain, as French production is still in its infancy. The campaign on the French market started in mid-April (earlier than in other years) and is now drawing to a close. Volumes were good and prices slightly higher this year, between €4 and €5 per kilo.

Serbia: Increasing plantings of peaches and nectarines
Serbia is seeing increasing plantings of stone fruit such as peaches and nectarines. These are mostly for local market consumption. Due to the many plum trees, the country exports a small amount to Germany and Western Europe.

Belgium: A lot of demand for Spanish stone fruit
There is a transition towards new products among Belgian traders. 'Everybody is a bit tired of grapes and citrus, so there is a lot of demand for Spanish stone fruit,' a trader explains. 'This may be reinforced somewhat by the approaching summer weather. As long as it is cold and rainy, stone fruit will not be on the table, but as soon as the sun starts shining, consumers will be tempted to try it. Then, if the stone fruit has the quality, as it does this year, they end up coming back for it. This reinforces each other. So despite more and more coming onto the market now, we continue to work with nice prices in paraguayos, nectarines and peaches in particular. Only in apricots is there a bit more pressure on prices, but that's also nothing to complain about."

Netherlands: Sales boost for peaches, nectarines, and paraguayo peaches lagging
Currently, the market for Spanish stone fruit in the Netherlands remains relatively calm. "The weather is somewhat against us," says an importer. "The supply of stone fruit is proceeding fairly normally, but the typical June feel is still missing. We've barely had consecutive days of real summer weather, resulting in a slower sales boost. At the same time, due to the less favourable weather here, we hardly notice that it's quite warm elsewhere in Europe, from north to south. For instance, last week in Scandinavia, temperatures reached 25-27 degrees Celsius in several places. This leads to surprising requests, which we can definitely use."

"We have just started with peaches from the northern region, around Zaragoza. This supply mostly consists of smaller sizes, laid out in single layers. Slowly, more larger peaches are entering the market. Prices fluctuate significantly daily, so we have to adapt accordingly. Prices for smaller sizes are around 5-5.50 euros, while larger sizes are reaching 8-9 euros. We are still sourcing nectarines from the south, from Huelva and Murcia. Their prices are roughly the same as those for peaches. The price for packaged peaches is around 6-7 euros, and the price for 10x1 kg packages ranges between 12 and 15 euros, depending on the size. For Paraguayo peaches, also sourced from southern Spain, prices for A and double-A grades are between 8 and 9 euros, while smaller sizes are sold for 7.50-8 euros."

Israel: Slow season start followed by heatwaves
In Israel growers first had to contend with a cold and wet spring, which led to a slower start to the stone fruit season in April. This was followed by rapidly rising heatwaves with 46 degrees recorded, leading to fires. Rockets from neighbouring countries have also landed in some orchards close to the border in the south of the country, with a blast radius of 100 meters knocking off fruit from many trees. The hotter weather is now leading to earlier ripening of nectarines, peaches and paraguayos.

"We only started picking at the beginning of April with our nectarine, peaches and flat peaches, through April apricots and plums, as now the whole range of stone fruit is being harvested. The hot weather is speeding up the harvest, which is not so good for quality. "We have a shortage of labour, there are not a lot of workers coming in. We have areas on our fields that are not accessible," notes a grower.

North America: Better stone fruit supply over 2023
The California stone fruit season is ahead of last year at this time by about 10 days. Harvest began with peaches and nectarines and plums will begin this weekend.

The California supply is good though there is a higher percentage of smaller fruit. However, often with stone fruit, sizing runs smaller at the beginning of the season because the time from bloom to harvest is shorter for the early varieties to grow. While the industry is hopeful for good demand this season, it's too early to tell how demand is because many retailers are just starting to carry summer stone fruit.

In the southeast, North Carolina is welcoming a large peach crop this season. Harvest began last week on some early peaches and this start time gets back to some more historical timing on North Carolina production.

Georgia is also currently in its peach harvest and reports indicate a good crop this season. South Carolina's production is also underway. Further north, New Jersey will begin its peach harvest mid to late June.

South Africa: Warm May likely to affect early Cape peaches and nectarines next season
The Western Cape has experienced an unusually dry and warm month of May, delaying the dormancy of stonefruit orchards. These orchards have until now kept more foliage than expected at this time of the year, therefore the current cold and snow come as a relief to peach and nectarine growers, but there are growing worries about medium-term water availability.

A warm May historically affects early Cape peaches and nectarines more than it does the later orchards, which means that a reduction in early yields could be on the cards during the next season. Some very early nectarine blocks even look ready to bud, about three weeks ahead of schedule.

During the previous season, delays at the harbour and inefficiencies at Transnet, the state-run port authority, cost the industry much money. One peach and nectarine farmer estimates losses of 15% of total revenue during the middle of the season. However, peach demand was strong and late nectarines obtained good prices.

The plan in future is to plant fewer cultivars and to extend reliable cultivars across various production regions. One needs to keep a finger on the pulse of varietal developments through on farm trial blocks, noted a grower.

China: Nectarines going to harvesting peak period with lack of experienced labour
Nectarines are going to the harvest period. This year looks like a perfect season. In the north of China, Liaoning province, the average weight of a single fruit is 150 grams, the largest up to 200 grams, sugar content of about 18%. Due to the ideal climate conditions, the growth of nectarines is quite good, with the highest wholesale price in the market at about 8 Rmb.

In China's Hubei Province, the average wholesale price of nectarines is more than 2 Rmb, and the price for peaches is around 3.3 Rmb. This year, the fruit is quite tasty with excellent quality. Nectarines mainly are sold to Guangdong Guangxi province, and some have been exported to Russia.

In Shanxi province, growers are busy with harvesting. New 48 nectarines above 65# 3.00-3.20 Rmb, spring snow peach above 60# 2.30 Rmb, above 65# 2.50-2.60 Rmb. Due to many orchards going to the peak period at the same time, it's hard to find enough labour for bagging, especially experienced labour.

Next week's topic: Cherries