As the California pomegranate harvest draws to a close, suppliers have noted the greater proportion of larger sized fruit compared with previous years. Volumes were reported as variable across California, but on balance seemed to be close to the average.
"We finished our pomegranate harvest less than two weeks ago," shared Ray England of DJ Forry. "Every year seems to present something unusual and this year sizes have been skewed much larger versus the historical average. Volume very much depended on the particular area. We had growers with an excess compared to the long term average and some with less."
England did note that the strong market and the amount of retail interest they have received suggested there is likely a shortage of supply. "Overall FOBs have been stronger than previous years," he said. "We have had a lot of phone calls from different retailers who are looking for fruit. This tells us that perhaps as an industry, California pomegranates are in short supply. We do know that 30 count and smaller have been almost impossible to come by and we expect to see tight markets moving forward, especially after Thanksgiving."
Exports performing strongly this year
The domestic market appears to be doing well and reports are that the export market has also seen plenty of strength this year. Exports to key markets are up, which suppliers say is due to an improved quarantine clearance rate.
"We have seen an excellent export market this year, particularly to Korea and Australia," England shared. "Those two countries have stringent phytosanitary regulations. In 2016 and 2017, California was having greater difficulty in presenting fruit able to clear those requirements, but this year we have had much more success with that. The strength in the export market has also helped to keep domestic FOBs strong."
It was also mentioned that the tariffs have had very little impact because China is not one of the major buyers of California pomegranates.
Pomegranates "sell themselves"
From a marketing perspective, pomegranates have not needed too much promotion to facilitate movement through the store, according to England. He said that all retailers need to do is to work on having an effective floor display, and the rest will be done by the fruit itself.
"The big thing when it comes to pomegranates is that retailers need to build good displays," England observed. "As long as this is accompanied by a reasonable retail price, that is all they need because the fruit practically sells itself. Pomegranates are a seasonal fruit and although there is availability from Chile during the summer months, California produces fruit with a superior color and better shelf life."