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US (CA): Pomegranate industry cautiously optimistic

The pomegranate harvest has picked up steam in California's San Joaquin Valley, and it's anticipated this year's crop will be larger than last year's. But while weather has been favorable so far, growers are waiting for the season's first rains to determine how successful this season will be.

“Mother Nature has been kind to the industry this year,” said Tom Tjerandsen, manager for the California Pomegranate Council. “Sizes are going to be, on average, larger than last year, and fruit is showing good color.” In addition to good sizing and color, favorable weather has brought the promise of good volume. Tjerandsen anticipates this year's fresh market production to exceed last year's production of approximately 4 million boxes. But he noted that this year's crop volume will really depend on the amount of rain received.

“We're expecting, perhaps over the next few days, to get the first rain of the season,” he said. “The fruit will suck up that moisture, and depending on how heavy that rainfall is, the fruit could split.” Fruit splitting is a real concern for growers, he added, because last year splitting curtailed the amount of fruit harvested. But he remained optimistic about this season, especially since harvesting got off to a quick start this year.

“Harvest was a little early, by about three or four days,” he said. “Growers are harvesting as much as they can right now, and picking should last up until about the second week in November.” Before then, he added, harvesting continues with guarded optimism.

“Like everything, it's a real crap shoot until the check clears the bank,” he said. “So we're waiting for the first rain and hoping for the best.”

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