Kiwifruit markets should stay strong when California takes over the bulk of production in October.

Through late August, Chilean shipments to all markets were about 52% lower than last year, said Steve Woodyear-Smith, tropical category director for Vancouver, British Columbia-based The Oppenheimer Group.

But shipments were down just 33% to the U.S.

“That’s not a total surprise,” since the U.S. has always been Chile’s No. 1 priority, Woodyear-Smith said.

While weekly Chilean volumes were dropping every week by late summer, Oppy expected to have Chilean kiwifruit into October.

Madera, Calif.-based Western Fresh Marketing expects to have Chilean kiwifruit through most of September, said Chris Kragie, the company’s deciduous fruit manager.

Western will only start its California kiwifruit deal when the fruit’s soluble solid contents are at a level that will ensure proper ripening and eating quality, Kragie said — a minimum of 6.5.

“We recommend to our growers to not pick or pack until the Kiwi reaches 7.0 soluble solid contents,” Kragie said.

That will likely be mid-October, he said. The overall California crop, Kragie said, will be “average.”

Woodyear-Smith also expected a normal-sized California crop, with shipments expected to begin right on time — light volumes in late September, heavier volumes in October.

Prices won’t like come down significantly when Chile and New Zealand yield to California and Italian and Greek imports, Woodyear-Smith said.

“The market should stay pretty strong through the end of the year. California will be coming into a fairly empty market.”

On Aug. 26, the U.S. Department of Agriculture reported prices of $23-25 for 19.8-pound containers of haywards 25s from Chile, up from $20-22 last year at the same time.

With the shortage of kiwifruit worldwide, Kragie said Western Fresh is focusing on waiting until fruit is at peak quality before harvesting it. That approach, he said, allows fruit to store better.

In late summer Oppy also was still importing kiwifruit from New Zealand, and expected to have the SunGold variety through September and green and organic kiwifruit possibly into November, Woodyear-Smith said.

SunGold volumes are way up for Oppy, organic also is up and green kiwifruit are slightly less plentiful this season.

“The SunGold has been a huge success,” Woodyear-Smith said. “We’ve had a lot of positive comments from buyers.”

The SunGold, a large hybrid of green and gold kiwifruit, was introduced to North American markets in 2012. The variety, which replaced other gold varieties, is less susceptible to PSA, a devastating vine disease.