(July 26) The packout of California peaches and nectarines is running more than 30% ahead of year ago figures. Retailers are finding the fruit is going for discount prices.

“The quality is excellent, color is excellent, and sugar levels are high,” said Jim Stewart, president of Dinuba, Calif.-based Wes-Pak Sales Inc. “This seems to be the perfect year for good-eating, high-quality fruit.”

The California Tree Fruit Agreement, Reedley, reported July 21 that grower-shippers had packed more than 13 million cartons of peaches season-to-date, compared to 9.8 million on that date a year ago, and nearly 11.3 million cartons of nectarines. Last year, the nectarine packout volume was at 8.3 million.

On July 23, the U.S. Department of Agriculture reported f.o.b.s for varieties of California yellow-flesh peaches, 40-42s, were $10.95-14.95 while 48-50s were are $9.95-11.95. Prices for white-flesh peaches, 40-42s, were $10.95-13.95 with 48-50s at $8.95-11.95.

On July 24, 2006, prices were markedly higher. The Department of Agriculture reported yellow-flesh and white-flesh 40-42s were selling for $13.95 while 48-50s were at $11.95-13.95.

It’s the same picture for nectarines. Prices on July 23 for yellow-flesh varieties, 40-42s, were $9.95-13.95 while 48-50s were at $8.95-11.95. White-flesh varieties, 40-42s, were selling for $11.95-13.95 while 48-50s were at $9.95-13.95.

By comparison, year ago prices were mostly $13.95 for yellow-flesh varieties, 40-42s, with 48-50s at $11.95-13.95. White-flesh varieties were fetching mostly $13.95-15.95 for 40-42s and 48-50s were mostly $11.95-13.95.

“The fruit is just having a vintage year,” said Dale Janzen, director of industry relations for the Tree Fruit Agreement. “The flavor and sugar content are so good.”

The lone stone fruit exception is plums. Janzen said the fruit didn’t size as well as peaches and nectarines, especially the friar variety. The packout is running well above the 2006 packout, however, 5.4 million cartons versus 4.1 million in 2006.

“The quality has been great all season so far,” said John Hein, partner and director of marketing for Crown Jewels Marketing and Distribution LLC, Fresno, Calif.

He said peaches will continue to pack heavily through August with nectarines continuing well into September.

Retailers can anticipate some California grower-shippers will pack stone fruit well into autumn.

“As an industry, we’re doing more and more things to be later,” said Don Goforth, director of marketing for Family Tree Farms, Reedley. “I anticipate running peaches into November.”

Family Tree was not yet halfway through its deal, he said on July 24. The company is particularly excited about a new fall peach variety.

“The autumn flame program is going to be big,” Goforth said. “The fruit is gorgeous. I think we’re poised for one of the best late season peach production quality years that we’ve seen in a long time.”