Cool, crisp nights and moderate daytime temperatures through the growing season have California kiwifruit growers, shippers and marketing agents anticipating a big season this year.
“We have some good size, and I think it’s one of those crops that definitely won’t get smaller,” said Chris Zanobini, president of the Sacramento-based California Kiwifruit Commission.
That’s a key issue with the upcoming crop, he said. All indications pointed to a normal start, around Oct. 4, Zanobini said.
“I think the sizing is very beneficial at this point,” he said. “Initially, it looked like kiwi would be late, like other commodities in this region. But once you get some of these cool nights and cooler days, that pretty much tells us that it’s pretty much time to harvest.”
The commission estimates a crop at around 6.5 million trays.
“It’s hard to know how many, but the big thing is there will be much larger sizing, which will benefit the whole industry,” said Donna Fagundes, sales manager with Hanford, Calif.-based Cal Harvest Marketing Inc.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture reported Sept. 28 that 1-layer flats of Brazilian tommy atkins were $5.50-6 for 7s and 8s, $6-6.25 for 9s, 10s and 12s and $12-14 for ataulfos size 9, 10, 12, 14, and 156.
On Sept. 27, 19.8-pound containers of yellow-flesh varieties from New Zealand were selling for $20-21 on the Los Angeles terminal market, up from $16-17.50 last year at the same time.
Fagundes said she anticipates a strong market for the California crop.
“The price is really good right now, so everybody is chomping at the bit to get going,” she said. “Once it is going, the market will eventually come down, so the sooner you can get in, the better, of course.”
The timing of the crop — with about a normal start — could help maintain that momentum, which good crops from New Zealand and Chile had kept going, Fagundes said.
“The stronger fruit is demanding the stronger price,” she said.
Summer volumes from the Southern Hemisphere were ample to maintain a healthy market, and that should continue into California’s summer season, said Mike Hatcher, salesman with Dinuba, Calif.-based grower-shipper Fruit Patch Sales LLC.
“It seems like the market will be firming up for the start of the California fruit,” Hatcher said. “As Chileans clean up, markets start out strong with a new crop. As volumes come on, it comes down obviously a little.”
Michael Ohki, whose Okhi Farms in Winton, Calif., grows kiwifruit on about 15 acres, said the fruit was shaping up well.
“The crop looks pretty good and size and quality look wonderful,” he said. “This year has been beautiful.”
That also has been the case with Marysville, Calif.-based Chase National Kiwi Farms and its marketing arm, Sierra Kiwi, said Tom Schultz, the company’s owner, who also is District 3 commissioner with the California Kiwi Commission.
“We’re excited; we’ve had an excellent growing season with cooler-than-normal temperatures that are very well suited for kiwi production,” he said. “It looks like normal to above-average sizing.”