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Late start, modest volume growth and 'phenomenal' quality seen for Summerwhites

by Rand Green | May 24, 2010
Summerwhites, the California Tree Fruit Agreement's trademarked name for white-flesh peaches and nectarines, are projected to see modest increases in volume for the 2010 season after a sharp decline in 2009. With the early harvest underway, starting dates by variety are projected to be about two days later than last year, and growers said the quality looks exceptional, as it does for California stone fruit in general.

The California Tree Fruit Agreement, at its April 29 Spring Committee/Board Meetings, estimated slightly larger crops for Summerwhite peaches and nectarines than last year. The estimate for Summerwhite nectarines was just over 4 million boxes, up from about 3.8 million last year. The estimate for Summerwhite peaches was nearly 5.6 million boxes, up from 4.9 million last year.

"I've been farming all my life," said David Jackson, president of Family Tree Farms in Reedley, CA, and managing partner of Family Tree Farms Marketing LLC. "This season of stone fruit, of all the years that I've been farming, looks to me like the highest quality product that I've ever seen harvested."

The season "is late," he said. "We're about 10 days later in starting than we have been," which has caused retailers some "consternation." But "the quality of the fruit is phenomenal," not only in the company's early fruit orchards in the West Hills of the San Joaquin Valley but across the valley, industrywide.

Cooler evenings than are normal for the time of year have "put a great blush on the fruit" and has allowed it to size well," he said. "From my viewpoint as a farmer, I think this is going to be one of the highest quality [crops] that we have harvested as an industry in many, many years. We are really excited about that, because it is so important that we give our consumers what they want - and that is a mature piece of fruit, a fruit that when they bite it, it has flavor, it has juice, it has aroma."

Mr. Jackson expressed optimism that "perhaps this year, if [throughout the industry] we will stay strong and pick right with a high quality, we can make it a successful fruit season."

Several of the stone fruit shippers in the San Joaquin Valley began packing their first Summerwhites of the 2010 season about a week into May. Fruit Patch Sales LLC in Dinuba, CA, for example, started in a small way on Saturday, May 8, according to Sheri Mierau, vice president of sales and marketing.

Crown Jewels Marketing LLC started May 7 with the Snow Angel white peach, according to Atomic Torosian, a managing partner. "We are looking forward to a real good season this year for both size and color because of the weather we've had," he said. The early varieties have had "a great chance to size up and get better color, and I think we are going to see that trend all the way through the 2010 season."

Family Tree Farms was near finishing its packing of the Snow Angel white peach when The Produce News visited the company's Reedley facility May 10.

Although some fruit on the east side of the valley had been damaged by a hailstorm on March 12, "we haven't lost anything yet to any natural event," said Maurice (Mo) Cameron, managing partner of Flavor Tree Fruit Co. LLC in Hanford, CA. "This year we anticipate very good supplies of white-flesh fruit," in contrast to the year before when the company's orchards on the valley's west side suffered from freeze damage."

(For more on the Summerwhite deal, see the May 24, 2010, issue of The Produce News.)