The Chilean stone fruit season, hit hard by September freezes, will wind down in April with small but high-quality angeleno plums.
As of mid-March, Chilean peach shipments to the U.S. were about 39% lower than last season at the same time, said Evan Myers, director of South American imports for Vancouver, British Columbia-based The Oppenheimer Group.
Nectarines were down about 50%, plums 46%, he said.
“The market’s pretty tight — things are moving,” Myers said.
On March 18, the U.S. Department of Agriculture reported prices of $22-24 for cartons of 2-layer tray packs of yellow-flesh peaches 40-42s from Chile, up from $14-16 last year at the same time.
Cartons of 2-layer tray packs of angeleno plums 30s were $24-26. At the same time last year, cartons of fortune plums 40-44s were $12-14.
Craig Padover, stone fruit category manager for Yonkers, N.Y.-based Jac Vandenberg Inc., said that early-season loss predictions proved to be fairly accurate.
“It’s pretty much what they said,” he said. “About 50%, including plums.”
With the sharp decreases in volume, promotional activity this season has been minimal, said Karen Brux, North American managing director of the Chilean Fresh Fruit Association, San Carlos, Calif.
One bright spot, she said, has been increased movement of a new plum variety, the lemon plum.
“We’ve had great interest from retailers in promoting” the variety, Brux said. “Volume is small, but because it’s such a unique item, retailers love to promote it and consumer response has been very positive.”
Chilean peaches should be on U.S. shelves through about the second week of April.
Myers reported good quality and large sizes, with fruit peaking on 30s and 40s.
Vandenberg will likely have Sweet September yellow-flesh peaches in the U.S. market through about early April, Padover said. Padover reported good eating quality and fairly large sizes.
“We’ll have one more spike in peaches,” he said March 18. “We’ll have decent volumes next week.”
Yellow nectarines were down for the season, but very small volumes of white nectarines would continue to trickle in, Myers said.
Vandenberg should have angeleno plums in the market through April, Padover said. Fruit is significantly smaller than average, but eating quality, appearance and sugar levels are “very good,” he said.
Larger volumes of angelenos would begin arriving in late March, but volumes will likely be down more than 50% due to the freezes and overseas demand, Myers said.