The California kiwi season is likely to begin in the first week of October.
“This start is about four to five days later than last season and about eight to 10 days later than two years ago,” says Chris Kragie of Madera, Ca.-based Western Fresh Marketing.
This means for now, Western Fresh will continue to carry kiwis from Chile--which generally starts its season in late March to early April--throughout September. “We will only start California Kiwi when the soluble solid contents are at a level that will insure proper ripening and eating quality--6.2 to 6.5 minimum,” he says, noting that some shippers and packers don’t wait for the fruit to meet the right soluble solids and instead gas the fruit to achieve the soluble requirements to sell. “We recommend to our growers to not pick or pack until the kiwi reaches 6.5 to 6.8 soluble solid contents,” says Kragie.
Kragie says that while Western Fresh wants to maximize its growers returns like other marketers, he doesn’t want to jeopardize the commodity for a little more money on bad-eating fruit that will turn the consumer off of kiwis. Instead, he says providing a good-eating fruit makes great strides in maintaining and even building consumer acceptance of kiwis.
He adds that the overall crop this year looks to be down some 10-15 percent depending on the fields and the growing regions involved. “This is why we feel the need to pick and pack only when the fruit will meet the consumer with a great tasting fruit. But it also ensures great storability for the later months,” says Kragie, noting that Western Fresh carries a full line of packaging from volume fill, trays, clamshells and bags.
As for demand for kiwi, Kragie says that demand does exceed supplies right now. “The market prices are moving sharply upwards to slow demand so there will be enough supplies to make until we start the California crop,” he says.