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Keith Horder: L&M set to move quality stone fruit crops

Keith Horder, director of business development for L&M Cos. in Union Gap, WA, said that the company will market a highly promotable stone fruit crop this season.

And the number one consideration during production is ensuring that the fruit meets the high flavor profile consumers have come to expect from Washington product.

“The Northwest prides itself on having flavorful fruit,” he told The Produce News May 24.

L&M markets white and yellow flesh peaches, Donut peaches, nectarines, apricots and plums. Fruit is packed in Grandview, WA, by Conrad & Adams Fruit.

Dicey weather in Washington will affect the commodities to some extent. “On peaches and nectarines, most people are saying the crop will be down,” Mr. Horder said. Peaches marketed by L&M are grown both north and south of the Yakima Valley. The harvest will begin in early August and continue through the third or fourth week of September.

Despite downward volume predictions for the state’s crop as a whole, Mr. Horder said, “Our volume will be typical.” Both conventional and organic product are grown, and he expects a combined total of approximately 250,000 cases to be marketed this season. “Sizing will be in the 40 to 30 series,” Mr. Horder added. Because peaches and nectarines will be large, he said that retailers can promote them as premium product in the produce department.

Mr. Horder said that the company prides itself on the quality Donut peaches it markets. “Our Donut peaches tend to be larger,” he stated. “There’s a real value to that.”

Apricot volume will be affected by cold weather which set into Washington during the production season. Mr. Horder anticipates that the crop will be down by as much as 40 percent in 2011. Dipping temperatures particularly affected younger trees. But he went on to say, “The trees that are there have a good set.”

The harvest will begin with early varieties in late June and continue through the end of July or beginning of August. “When you lose so much product, it’s hard to tell when the fruit that’s there will ripen,” he cautioned.

As with peaches and nectarines, L&M markets apricots primarily to the domestic marketplace.

“We have a small but ample supply of plums to take care of our customers’ needs,” he added.

All commodities are marketed under the “Nature’s Delight” and “Conrad & Adams” labels in standardized packs. Custom packaging is also available for clubstores.