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California figs more than two weeks early

Figs from the California desert region have been in the marketplace since late April, which was much earlier than normal because of warm winter weather.

Kurt Cappelluti, sales manager for Stellar Distributing in Madera, CA, said last year's start date of May 8 was the earliest he had ever seen in more than 20 years in the deal.

"And this year we beat that by two weeks," he said. "We shipped our first carton on April 23. Unbelievable."

He explained that warm winter weather pushed the crop earlier than expected and that will continue to be the case for figs for the rest of the year.

Cappelluti said about 90 percent of California figs are produced in the Madera area, north of Fresno in the San Joaquin Valley. However, Stellar also has some fig trees in the Southern California desert growing district around Brawley, CA.

He said the state has enjoyed very warm winter weather and that the early desert fig deal will be followed by an early start to the main deal in the Madera region.

"We will start in Madera around May 20 and everyone will have figs by June 1," he said, stating that the timing was more than two weeks ahead of last year.

Speaking May 1, he had already reaped the benefits for two weeks of a demand-exceeds-supply pricing structure.

Salesman Brian Lapin said May 1 that the f.o.b. market was in the area of $35 to $45 for a tray, depending upon the size and configuration. For example, he said on that day, a pack of 12 eight-ounce clamshells of figs was returning $45 to the shipper, while six 12-ounce clams were selling for $36.

The company offers a variety of different packs and each has a different price.

As volume increases the price should drop, but the Stellar representatives believe the market will hold through most of the month of May simply because there will be limited volume until much later in the month.

Cappelluti said retailers could look for promotable volume by June 1.