(April 10) CASTROVILLE, Calif. — California artichoke shippers say they’ve already begun shipping heavy volumes, but the true peak of the season may be slightly delayed.

Usually, the industry begins peaking in mid-April, said Joe Micheli Jr., harvest manager for Ocean Mist Farms, Castroville. This season, it will be more toward the end of the month, he said.

Production was looking good the second week of April, and Micheli said he expected good supplies available through the third week of May.

On April 8, the U.S. Department of Agriculture reported these prices for cartons of green globe thorned artichokes from central and southern California: 18s $16.35-16.60, 24s $14.35-15.60, 30-36s $12.35 and 49s $6.10-7.35.

The same time last year, it reported 18s and 24s at $14.25-16.50, 30s and 36s at $14.25-14.50 and 48s and 60s at $8.25-8.50.

Kris Capurro, partner in Capurro Marketing LLC, Moss Landing, said his company already was peaking and anticipated a good crop ahead.

As artichoke plants grow exhausted toward the later harvest, they should yield smaller product, he said. That could cause markets to dip for the smaller artichokes and rise for the larger sizes.

Capurro said he expected big sizes to peak out by the end of April.

Pat Hopper, manager of the California Artichoke Advisory Board, Castroville, said now that Easter is gone, retailers will want to move remaining volumes of artichokes quickly.

“We’ll be moving right into summer veggies before we know it,” she said.

Shipments to date were behind, partly because of a cool spring, she said. The artichokes also may have needed time to recover from a late January frost.

By June , the official end of the season, production could catch up to more normal volumes, she said.

Hopper said California growers planted about 8,000 acres of artichokes this season, with 80% of the state’s production coming from the Castroville area.

Last season, the California industry shipped a total of 4.3 million cartons of artichokes, she said. For the 1999-2000 season, it shipped 4.6 million.

On April 8, Hopper said the industry’s shipments to date for 2001-02 totaled roughly 2.2 million cartons. Micheli said that on average, the industry gets 50% of its production in March, April and May.