(Aug. 27) FRESNO, Calif. — California kiwifruit shippers expect a drop of up to 15% in the size of this year’s crop, with higher demands in the early season as Chilean and New Zealand imports give way to the domestic kiwifruit.

Most shippers generally wait until October to begin shipping, but with light supplies in the early season, some early shipments will take advantage of less kiwifruit in the global marketplace.

“We’ll still be bringing in containers of Chilean fruit until Sept. 20,” said Kurt Cappellutti, sales manager at Stellar Distributing Inc., Fresno, which will have California kiwifruit starting Sept. 22.

“It’s a fairly strong market right now, and I think New Zealand will stop bringing in their boats by Sept. 20, Sept. 25,” Cappellutti said. “There’s not a shortage of kiwi in the world, but by no means is there a glut, and we’ve had a nice 18 months of stable kiwifruit markets.”

The Agricultural Marketing Service reported on Aug. 26 there were insufficient Chilean supplies to establish a market. The previous week f.o.b.s of shipments arriving at Los Angeles were $11-13 for a 22-pound loose-pack carton of 27-30s, $10-12 for a carton of 33-36s and $10-11 for a carton of 39-45s. At the same time last year, the imported fruit brought $12-13 for sizes 27-45.

The AMS’ Market News Service reported its first f.o.b.s for the California crop last year on Oct. 28, with 22-pound cartons of 30s at $13-14, $11 for cartons of 39s and $10-11 for 45s.

Cappellutti said the state’s crop this year will be around 5.2 million 7-pound one-layer tray equivalents; last year’s volume was around 6 million.

“The last time we had a crop of this size was about 15 years ago,” he said.

Lindy LaFrancis, president of the Sacramento-based California Kiwifruit Commission, said many fields, particularly in the northern growing regions, had pollination problems that produced a lighter fruit set.

“There are some fields that might have a bit of a sizing problem, and that’s one reason we’ll have a shorter crop,” LaFrancis said. “Also, some fields had a decreased bud break, so we didn’t have the full pollination.”

Kevin Martin, salesman for The Giumarra Cos., Los Angeles, said there’s a potential for a supply gap between the end of Chile’s season and the start of California’s season.

“There’s still New Zealand fruit, but not a lot coming in from Chile because they had a light crop this year,” Martin said. “I think we’ll have a range of sizes, with a good amount of small fruit. There’s large fruit, too. I think it will be spread out evenly this year, but I think sizing may be down in the whole scheme of things.”