KINGSBURG, Calif. — What started as a 2009 stone fruit forecast of 49 million cartons, down 16% from the 2008 deal, has been revised further downward.

Production may drop below 45 million cartons, said Sheri Mierau, president of the California Tree Fruit Agreement, Reedley. The revised forecast is due in large part to the plum crop, now forecast to total well under 9 million cartons, or about 30% fewer plums than the 2008 deal. And it could be even smaller.

“We can’t produce enough of them,” said Dan Spain, vice president of sales and marketing for Kingsburg Orchards, Kingsburg.

Growers expect stronger prices for small California plum crop

Don Schrack

The Dinosaur Nest, a new fresh plum display bin launched this season by Kingsburg Orchards, Kingsburg, is on wheels and may be displayed nearly anywhere in the store, said Dan Spain, vice president of sales and marketing.

The dilemma at Kingsburg Orchards is attributable in large measure to the Dinosaur Nest, a new display bin, he said. The bin, designed by Spain, is on wheels and may be used and moved throughout the store.
“Some retailers are even putting the Dinosaur Nests at the checkout counters,” Spain said. “I guarantee using the bins will increase plum sales.”

Kingsburg Orchards ordered 6,000 Dinosaur Nests, and Spain said in late July that he was concerned he might run out of the display bins before the end of the season.

Flavorfalls and September yummies are two of the varieties to be available from Kingsburg Orchards through September, he said.

Grower-shippers are still trying to determine why plum production is so low, said Rick Eastes, vice president of sales and marketing for Dinuba-based Fruit Patch Sales Co. There is no mystery, however, for growers in and around Exeter.

“They got hit by the four plagues: frost, hail, wind and heat,” Eastes said. “Nothing good happened to those plum growers.”

A late spring frost was viewed by some growers as a bonus in that the resulting natural fruit drop saved the labor cost of thinning. As the plums began to mature, high winds gusting to nearly 60 mph — rare in the San Joaquin Valley — scarred much of the fruit. Most growers did not pick and pack the blemished fruit, Eastes said.
The final blow came during the first two weeks of July when temperatures soared to well above 100 degrees, 10-15 degrees above normal.

“That weather hastened ripening and it seemed as if the early varieties peaked simultaneously,” Eastes said.
Supplies will be limited for the balance of the season, and prices are going to climb, he said.

Fruit Patch will begin marketing angelinos and flavorfalls in September, and supplies should be available into early October, Eastes said.

According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, Aug. 10 prices for 28-pound cartons of 30-35s ran $18.10-19.10, with 40-45s at $18.10 and 50-55s at $16.10

As might be expected, year-ago prices were considerably lower. The USDA reported Sept. 8, 2008 that f.o.b.s of cartons of most red plum varieties, 30-35s, were $14-16, with 40-45s at $14 and 50-55s going for $10-12.
Prices of black plums were slightly higher.

Picking of angelinos was set to begin in mid-August at Sun World International LLC, Bakersfield, said Gene Coughlin, a Sun World commodity director.

“Frost during the bloom knocked us for a loop. We lost about 50% of the crop,” he said.

Sun World will still have enough plums to ship angelinos through October, Coughlin said.

There will be limited supplies this season of Sun World’s Aplum, a proprietary variety the company thinks will become a major late season player.

“It’s an interesting plum,” Coughlin said. “It has good size with interesting flavor characteristics, kind of an apple flavor.”

The aplum harvest was scheduled to begin in late August or early September, but this year’s volume will be very small, at only about 7,000 cartons, Coughlin said.

Yet another new Sun World proprietary variety, a red plum that is not yet named, will make its debut this season. About 1,000 cartons of the new variety will be marketed, Coughlin said. 

Growers expect stronger prices for small California plum crop

Don Schrack

Phillips Farms Marketing, Visalia, will be packing and marketing fall season plum varieties into October, said owner Doug Phillips.

Weather caused major problems for the plums marketed by the Dinuba-based Summeripe Worldwide Inc. alliance of grower-shippers, said Mike Garrison, sales manager.

“Our summer friar crop was off about 40%, and I’ll bet the angelinos will be pretty close to that,” he said.

Limited supplies of angelinos are also anticipated at Scattaglia Growers & Shippers LLC, Traver, said Dave Parker, director of marketing, who said the variety will be available through September.
There will be larger volumes of three other late season varieties, September yummys, flavorfalls and autumn beauts, Parker said. Those plums will be available into October, he said.

While plum production is down at Reedley-based Brandt Farms, the company expects to ship promotable supplies of flavorfalls and angelinos into October, said Wayne Brandt, president.

That’s also the timetable at Trinity Fruit Sales Co., Fresno, said salesman John Hein. Trinity will be shipping red and black plum varieties into October, he said.