Importers of Chilean peaches, nectarines and plums are expecting continued good quality and steady demand for the remainder of the season.

Heavier volumes of Chilean nectarines and plums were expected to arrive in the U.S. the weekend of Jan. 22-23, but a slight gap in peach supplies is expected beginning in mid-February, said Craig Padover, stone fruit category manager for Jac Vandenberg Inc., Yonkers, N.Y.

“There will actually be more nectarines than peaches in February,” Padover said. “The last few years growers have gotten better returns for nectarines. With peaches, it’s always a challenge to get a good-eating piece of fruit from Chile.”

The peach gap will likely close in early March. The peach season will likely wind down at the end of March, with nectarines finishing in early April and plums at the end of April, Padover said.

Evan Myers, stone fruit category director for The Oppenheimer Group, Vancouver, British Columbia, said he expects a continuation of the orderly marketing that has marked the first months of the Chilean stone fruit deals.

“Right now demand is good,” he said. “A lot of chain store promotions are in place, which helps the flow of product through the system. I expect pricing to hold relatively steady.”

Excellent color, eating quality and overall quality this season has helped generate significant repeat sales, Myers said. Oppenheimer’s Chilean peach and nectarine deals are expected to wind down in late April, with plums going into mid-May, he said.

Chilean shippers have done a good job thus far of reigning in shipments in order to keep markets strong, a trend Padover hopes will continue into spring.

“As long as supplies stay under a certain level — about 150,000 boxes per week — and there are no disruptions, it should be OK,” he said. “So far the markets have been good, and I’m always optimistic that will continue.”

On Jan. 18, the U.S. Department of Agriculture reported prices of $12-14 for cartons of two-layer tray packs of yellow-flesh peaches 36s from Chile, down from $18-20 last year at the same time.

Cartons of plums 50-60s were $12-14, down from $18-22 last year.

Peach, nectarine and plum volumes are expected to be similar to last season for Oppenheimer, Myers said.

Nectarine and plum volumes from Chile could be up 5 to 10% from last season, while peach volumes are likely to stay about the same, Padover said.

Vandenberg is expanding its Chilean specialty stone fruit program this season, with more lemon plums, pluots and white-flesh peaches and nectarines expected, Padover said.