With the fading of July, both plum and nectarine production from California
should remain fairly steady, so the firm prices that have accompanied the
deals for most of the season should prevail.
Dale Janzen, director of industry relations for the California Tree Fruit
Agreement, said that the significant acreage removal of stone fruits in
California's San Joaquin Valley following the 2008 season "have turned the
late-season [volume] peaks into foothills. Looking at the upcoming varieties,
I don’t see anything but steady supplies. We’ve gotten through the July
Mr. Janzen predicted that peach prices would strengthen and that the already
strong market for plums and nectarines would continue. The U.S. Department
of Agriculture’s Market News Branch quoted plums prices from California July
27 in the $19 to $20 f.o.b. range for large fruit. Nectarines were mostly $16
to $17, while California peaches were in the $11 to $12 range. California
produces the vast majority of domestic plums and nectarines but shares the
peach stage with production from many different regions including South
Carolina, Georgia, Michigan and New Jersey.
A well-known California grower-shipper who asked not to be identified
confirmed the agreement’s assessment for nectarines and plums but did not
paint as rosy a picture for peaches. With the popularity of featuring locally
grown fresh produce at retail increasing, he believes that the California peach
market will remain soft until late August. Many retailers on the East Coast, he
reasoned, feature peaches from their local districts, which he expects to fill a
good portion of the pipeline for the next month. “From late August into
September, I think we should see a strengthening of the peach market and
pretty good prices,” he said.
Dave Parker, director of marketing for SGS in Traver, CA, concurred, saying
that the crops are lighter than they have historically been, which has led to a
strong market for both plums and nectarines. Surveying the situation for the
next several weeks is difficult at best, but he said that there appears to be no
reason to expect that the current marketing conditions will dramatically
change. “The plum crop hasn’t been bountiful this year, and I don’t think that
is going to change,” he said. “And I see a steady supply of nectarines for the
next month or so.”
A look at the numbers reveals the story. In 2008, California stone fruit
shippers sent about 59 million cartons of peaches, nectarines and plums to
the market. As a result, f.o.b. prices were low all season and most growers
were awash in red ink at the end of the deal. Significant acreage was pulled
after that season, and the 2009 stone fruit crop came in at only about 46
million cartons. This year’s crop is a bit larger, but is still not expected to
reach 48 million cartons.
Indications are that retail promotions for California stone fruit have been
fairly good this year according to handlers, and they expect a steady supply of
promotions through the end of summer.
Mr. Janzen said that the California stone fruit crop is at the peak of its season
with both the shipping and tasting quality at their best. He added that each of
the three fruits are moving into varieties that can be called classics because of
their longevity on the scene. In August, Elegant Lady is one of the top peach
varieties, Honey Royal is a major nectarine variety and plum shippers will be
sending Friars to the marketplace.