Sunny California was woefully lacking in the vitamin D-delivering rays though late winter and early spring.
As a result, later-than-usual harvest starts affected nearly all fruit crops. But most of the commodities are on solid ground for the fall, grower-shippers said, and retailers may benefit from the extended seasons.
Plums — and their close relatives, pluots — have been the stars of the stonefruit category this season. Good supplies of plums and pluots will be available into October.
Nectarines have held their own and will continue to be offered, while peaches have struggled.
All three of the commodities have produced good size and good to excellent quality.
The problem for California peaches stemmed from bumper crops in other peach-producing states and a resulting imbalance in supply and demand.
The tables appear to be turning.
“We’re at a point where normally we’d be slowing down,” said Gary Van Sickle, president of the California Tree Fruit Agreement, Reedley. “Because of the late start, we’re beginning to catch up.”
The late start to the table grape harvest will reinforce availability of the growing supply of late-season varieties.
“It’s been a real battle to get started, but the quality that we’re putting in the box has been worth the wait,” said Sean Stockton, partner and chief executive officer of Sundale Sales, Tulare.
Crimsons, autumn royals, autumn kings, late thompsons, scarlet royals and red globes are just some of the varieties that will be marketed into December and, in some cases, into the new year, grower-shippers said.
The cool spring helped galas, the California apple industry’s lead-off variety, color very well, and supplies are nearly exhausted. But later varieties also benefited from the lower temperatures.
“The cool weather has made these apple trees look better than they have the last five years,” Andy Poteete, salesman for Bidart Bros. Marketing Inc., Bakersfield, Calif., said of the company’s granny smith crop.
Whether the state’s late-season varieties such as fuji and Pink Lady will display the color of their gala relatives will depend on Mother Nature’s willingness to continue to offer cool nights, said Rich Sambado, sales manager of Primavera Marketing Inc., Linden, Calif.
The only concern on the fall crop horizon appears to be the light fruit set found in some pomegranate orchards.
Quality and size are forecast to be very good, but volume could be off substantially for some grower-shippers, said Dee Slayman, owner of Slayman Marketing, Bakersfield.
Figs are running strong for 2010.
“We’ll be picking until Jan. 15,” said Kurt Cappelluti, sales manager for Stellar Distributing Inc., Madera, Calif.
Stellar will have a slightly larger, but still limited supply of the new tiger variety, in addition to black missions, sierras and brown turkeys, he said.
Madera-based Western Fresh Marketing Services Inc. is marketing a similar fig lineup.
Calimyrnas, black missions, brown turkeys and kadotas will be available into January, said Chris Kragie, vice president.
Western Fresh is scheduled to begin harvesting kiwifruit the third week in September, he said.
Cappelluti said Stellar is going to wait on its 60 acres of kiwifruit to make certain the fruit sizes well and develops good sugar content.
Harvesting of kiwifruit at Cal Harvest Marketing Inc., Hanford, Calif., begins the last week in September, said Donna Fagundes, sales manager.
The upcoming 2010-11 citrus crop is on track for a notable increase over the 2009-10 deal, though sizes will be down slightly.
“The consensus among Sunkist grower-shippers is for an industrywide jump of up to 15% over the 2009-10 volume,” said Claire Smith, director of corporate communications for Sunkist Growers Inc., Sherman Oaks, Calif.
Navels should start coming out of the fields no later than early November, and some Kern County groves may start picking in late October, said Tom Wollenman, general manager of LoBue Bros. Inc., Lindsay, Calif.
Some specialty citrus, however, may debut for the category. Valhalla Sales & Marketing Co., Kingsburg, Calif., plans to begin marketing satsumas the first week in October, said Steve Nelsen, co-owner.
“We’ll go earlier if possible,” he said.