(June 14) California prune grower-shippers face the prospect of a small crop, but the carryover from a large 2006 crop will mean no shortages for retailers.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s National Agricultural Statistics Service forecasts a crop of 95,000 tons, compared to the state’s prune volume of 180,000 tons last year.

Arthur Driscoll, president and chief executive officer of Sunsweet Growers Inc., Yuba City, Calif., said nearly half of the 2006 crop was carried over to this year. That means Sunsweet will be able to meet customers’ needs and still have a carry over for next year, he said.

Rich Peterson, executive director of the California Dried Plum Board, Sacramento, said unusually warm weather during the bloom was the reason for the smaller crop. He said the warm weather shortened the bloom to about a week limiting pollination and resulting in a light fruit set.

Chris Steggall, a buyer for National Raisin Company, Fowler, said the outlook could be somewhat brighter than forecast. He said the June drop had been light and that could translate to a volume slightly higher than forecast.

Peterson said the light crop could cut into exports, which usually capture about half of the California prune crop. He said he expects grower-shippers to make certain domestic customers were served first and that there would not be a supply shortage.

Prices are expected to remain steady. California prune processors and the Prune Bargaining Association, Yuba City, are in the final months of a two-year agreement. An association source said he anticipated prices paid to growers for the 2007 crop would be at or above the current agreement’s maximum per ton price of $1,600.