Kiwifruit markets could stay robust through the summer, thanks to a much smaller Chilean crop.

“It’s just a tight situation right now,” said John Fagundes, owner of Hanford, Calif.-based Fagundes Agribusiness and its marketing arm, Cal Harvest Marketing Inc. “I think we’ll see continued higher prices.”

Extremely cold weather early in the Chilean growing season has put a severe dent in the Chilean kiwifruit crop, which should mean continued high prices, said Jason Bushong, division manager of Giumarra Wenatchee, a division of Los Angeles-based The Giumarra Cos.

“There hasn’t been an official number, but talking to my guys on the ground, I’m hearing that volumes in some areas are down 60%, in others 50%,” Bushong said. “It’s going to affect the market, keeping it fairly high.”

Per-box prices could hit $28 in the coming months, with prices for Chilean fruit likely to rise steadily well into summer, said Chris Kragie, sales manager of Madera, Calif.-based Western Fresh Marketing.

On March 4, the U.S. Department of Agriculture reported prices of $20-23 for 19.8-pound containers of hayward 25-27s from Italy, up from $16-18 last year at the same time.

By August or September, New Zealand could account for 70-80% of kiwifruit supplies worldwide, up from about 50% in a typical year for that time, Kragie said.

Chilean kiwifruit volumes could be down 70-80% this season, he said.

The week of March 3, Cal Harvest had just a few pallets of California kiwifruit left to market, Fagundes said. The company has been bringing in Italian kiwifruit since January, and will continue to source from there, but volumes are lighter than usual.

Giumarra Wenatchee also is sourcing from Italy this winter. The company expects to ship Italian kiwifruit through April and possibly into early May, Bushong said.

“The market’s really good on Italian,” Bushong said. “And the quality’s been really good this year.”

Sizing also is up, with Giumarra Wenatchee shipping mostly 30s and larger, just what retailers want, Bushong said.

Price relief won’t likely arrive when the Chilean crop begins shipping, Fagundes said. Thanks to the September frosts, the crop will likely be just half of what it was last year, he said.

Some Chilean fruit should begin coming into the U.S. market in early April, with volumes picking up in the second half of the month, Bushong said.

New Zealand fruit should begin arriving in early to mid-May, slightly earlier than usual, Fagundes said.

New Zealand volumes likely will be closer to historical norms, thanks to new gold plantings coming into production, but the big drop in Chile should keep prices for New Zealand kiwifruit high until next fall, when the Northern Hemisphere comes back into production, Fagundes said.