Morada Produce Co. LP in Linden, CA, has made “a lot of changes” to its cherry packing facility during the off-season, according to Michael Jameson, marketing director and export salesman for the company. The biggest change has been the installation of “the largest optical cherry sorter in the world,” he said.
The new sorter is manufactured in Italy by Unitec and “can sort fruit for firmness, for color, for size, for defects, for double and spur recognition. So it is a huge advancement to our company this year,” Mr. Jameson said.
The new sorter “is going to make it so that we can really dial in the consistency of quality that goes in to the box,” he said. “It is going to allow us to make sure that what we send out to our customers on a consistent basis, day-in and day-out, every day throughout the course of the season, throughout all of our varieties, is high end, high quality product.”
Morada has “also installed a mini version of the Unitec machine in our receiving department,” he added. “So as fruit comes from the field, a bin sample will run through this new Unitec sample machine” which “will give us a computer read-out of the average size in the bin” as well as a breakdown of the range of color in the bin, the defects in the bin and the number of doubles and spurs in the bin. That report will enable the company to “segregate the fruit in the cold storage, so we can make sure that we send the right fruit to the right market to the right customer.”
Additionally, Morada has put in new high-end automatic clamshell packing machines from DBC out of New Zealand, Mr. Jameson said. “We have installed five of those. They are high-speed, high-efficiency” machines that will at least double the company’s capacity for packing clamshells, compared to last year.
With regard to the company’s 2013 California cherry crop, “it is not a huge crop, it is not a small crop, it is a good crop of cherries,” Mr. Jameson said. He expects probably a little above average crop of Brooks, Corals and Garnets and a little below average crop on Tulares. For Bings, which had a large crop last year, he expects the volume to be down perhaps 15-20 percent from the 2012 harvest.
“Overall, I think it is a very clean crop” with “very limited doubles and spurs,” he said. “I think it is going to be a crop that sizes well.”
Last year, Morada had only 30 percent of its normal crop of early cherry varieties from the southern and central growing districts, from Kern County to Fresno. “This year we’ve got a full crop,” he said. “I think that is going to allow us to get into the marketplace, create momentum with retailers, and carry that momentum all the way through the season until we finish up at the end of the Bings” in the northern district.
Mr. Jameson expected to start harvesting its earliest block of Brooks around April 28. “That is a little bit earlier than normal and a few days earlier than last year,” he said. “We’ll start Tulares probably the 3rd or 4th of May,” followed by Corals around May 8, Rainiers around May 15, Chelans around May 20 and Bings around May 25 or 26.
The season will have two distinct peaks, he said. The early varieties will probably peak from around May 6 to May 20. The Bings will probably peak around June 2 to June 14. “We will finish up around the 20th of June” with cherries out of Hollister, which is a later district near the coast.
New on sales at Morada this season is Larelle Miller, who was previously with River Maid. Also on sales, along with Mr. Jameson, are David Paganucci and Steve Jost. “It is a good group, very seasoned, very experienced, very knowledgeable about the produce business, very knowledgeable about the customer base,” Mr. Jameson said.