Supplies of California dates are solid as the industry approaches the end of harvest.
“I don’t predict any type of shortages for dates. It doesn’t mean that sales are down. It just means we’re continuing to plant and get additional crops each year,” says Bob Harrick of Woodspur Farms in Coachella, CA.
This year, harvest began a week to 10 days later. “We had such a hot summer that we thought they would ripen more quickly. But for some reason, there are some still ripening,” says Harrick. He adds that harvest begins generally the last week of August, then moves into heavy production in September and October and will finish up in another week and a half. “There’s a little bit of growth in tonnage but it’s basically the same,” he says.
As for demand, it is strong. “You would think with COVID-19 that everything would be down but quite frankly, we’ve actually seen an increase. Our e-commerce business and our supply to our major customers is also up,” says Harrick, adding that demand is predicted to increase as the industry goes into 2021.
At the same time, there are some shifts in demand for date products. “Our other products such as date syrup and organic date powders, those show strong interest in growth. I think it’s primarily because a lot of major corporations are looking for alternatives to artificial sweeteners,” says Harrick. At the same time, there has been a slowdown in nutritional food bars. “It makes sense. They are traditionally in lunch bags or for those working and, on the go, and with more and more families eating at home, that grab and go item has slowed down,” he says. “However, we do see an increase going into the fourth quarter and hope that trend will continue going into next year.”
Pricing meanwhile is similar to last year and stable.