Farmers are experiencing a mixed bag of news with varying impacts on different crops and commodities:
Citrus: California is expected to produce more than twice the number of oranges as Florida in 2022 and 2023. Prices for California oranges and lemons are up during the holiday season. Valley navel orange prices are reported to be higher for many sizes, just below the previous year's strong prices. Lemons are also experiencing strength compared to the past four years.
Stone Fruit: Peach, plum, and nectarine growers are closely monitoring the situation with Prima Wawona, a major player in the industry that declared bankruptcy. The company, now owned by private equity firm Paine Schwartz, announced the possibility of being sold through a court-supervised auction process in December. With 15,000 acres of tree fruit in the San Joaquin Valley and a significant packing house in Cutler, Tulare County, the industry hopes for a resolution before the 2024 season. Increased costs, weather-related impacts, and allegations of mismanagement have contributed to the company's challenges.
Walnuts: Local walnut growers face an uncertain future after several years of declining prices, averaging well below the break-even point. Growers have responded by removing thousands of acres of trees. Processors reportedly prefer only specific walnut varieties, leading to challenges for growers. The recent walnut cash selling season in Tulare County experienced low prices and limited processor demand, resulting in fewer gleaners collecting leftover nuts after harvest. Factors contributing to the challenges include oversupply of trees, high tariffs, port backups, tougher overseas competition, and heat affecting nut quality. The USDA reported the total 2022 California walnut crop purchased from producers at 677,999 tons with an average price of 30.4 cents per pound. Growers received $3 per pound five years ago.
Walnut Prices: As part of the Walnut Bargaining Association, some growers are advocating for not accepting prices lower than 60 cents a pound for good-quality Chandler walnuts, though this is considered a marginal and unprofitable price for many. A more favorable price around 80 cents a pound is suggested to be helpful for growers.