California is about to start its pomegranate season with a solid crop.
“The crop looks good but not extremely heavy. Plenty of singles where the pomegranates hang like Christmas tree ornaments, nice and separated,” says Keith Wilson with King Fresh Produce LLC in Dinuba, CA. “We’ve had a mild summer in the San Joaquin Valley where the pomegranates are grown.”
Wilson says it’s a good sizing year for pomegranates though. “The crop is spread out nicely with sizes. We like to see 32s and larger. We’re always in need of larger sized fruit because most customers like the bigger sizes in pomegranates,” he says.
The concern over cracking
The season will begin with harvesting early varieties of pomegranates such as Foothill, Smith and Early Wonderful in mid-September. “The later we get into peak pomegranate harvest we have to be concerned about rain. Pomegranates will crack. The cracking is a sign of full maturity and the arils inside expand and have nowhere to go,” says Wilson. “While we like to see a few cracked pieces of fruit in the field, we don’t like to see too many.” The Wonderful variety harvesting will begin in early October and packing will continue until adverse weather hits sometime in late-November.
Meanwhile Wilson is optimistic about demand. “The market is healthy with demand for both export and domestic supplies, which we forecast similar demand as last year.”
“We’re looking for homes for smaller fruit in the 36 count and 40 count range which are always a good size to promote at value prices and use as a merchandising tool to introduce new customers to pomegranates,” Wilson adds.
Organics on the rise
In terms of developments, King Fresh is offering smaller-sized pomegranates in various sized “D“ bags and mesh bags and will also offer organic pomegranates again this year. “We’ll continue to look at the organic market, we see it growing at a healthy rate. Pomegranates are following suit with the rest of the produce industry,” he says.
As for pricing, Wilson anticipates it will be similar to last year but hopes for an increase given the continued factoring in of California’s increasing labor wages. “We don’t want to see more pomegranate acreage removed which has been a trend for the last six years,” he says. He adds though that what could also be of interested to growers is a more active pomegranate juice market. “It’s a big motivator in the profitability for a grower to consider the juice prices,” he says. “The prices have been very low for the past four to five years and it’s good to see the juice market improve.”