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PARLIER, CA -- At its annual spring committee board meetings held here April 29, the California Tree Fruit Agreement in Reedley, CA, which administers marketing orders for fresh-market California peaches, plums and nectarines, approved an official combined crop estimate of just over 46.8 million packages for the three commodities, which is virtually unchanged from last year's actual shipments of just over 46.6 million packages.

Peaches are expected to be up a little from last year, and plums and nectarines are expected to be down. Additionally, most varieties were expected to start about two days later than last year.

That official estimate is down somewhat from the 48 million- to 50 million- box crop that had been anticipated just two weeks earlier. CTFA President Gary Van Sickle had told The Produce News April 15 that he expected the combined volume of peaches, plums and nectarines to be something under 50 million boxes, possibly in the range of 48 million. But growers were finding more damage than they originally thought from a widespread hailstorm that passed through California's San Joaquin Valley on Monday, April 12. Although growers didn't see much damage from the hail, more damage became evident over the course of the next two weeks.

A "full crop" on the existing producing acreage would be in the vicinity of 55 million boxes, according to Mr. Van Sickle. That is lower than the "huge" crop of "just under 60 million" in 2008, but the number of orchards taken out of production following 2008 reduced the potential.

During the April 29 meetings, the California Plum Marketing Board estimated the 2010 plum crop to be around 8.8 million packages, down from 9.4 packages a year ago and 12.8 million packages in 2008.

Plums, which already had a light crop on the tree due to an inconsistent set, were hit hardest by the hail.

The plum estimate includes interspecific plum varieties marketed as plums, but not those marketed as Pluots. Growers of Pluot interspecifics have the option of whether to market their Pluots or plums, and those marketed as Pluots are not covered by the plum marketing order.

The Peach Commodity Committee estimated the 2010 California fresh peach at nearly 21.9 million packages, up from just over 20.7 million packages in 2009 but below the 23.9 million boxes shipped in 2008.

The Nectarine Administrative Committee estimated the 2010 nectarine crop at just over 16.2 million packages, compared to nearly 16.5 million in 2009 and over 22.2 million in 2008.

Approximately 25 percent of peaches and nectarines harvested will be white- flesh varieties, and the remainder is what the agreement refers to as "traditional" or yellow-flesh varieties. That ratio is about the same as last year.