Excellent California crops of organic apricots and cherries are expected to be the first two stone fruits out of the gate when shipments begin late this month and early next month, according to several industry experts. And if these experts' comments are representative, organic stone fruit growers are looking at larger than usual crops, with promotional opportunities for retailers beginning in May and stretching well into the summer.
Stephen Paul, Stone Fruit and Blueberry Category Director, Homegrown Organic Farms
Stephen Paul, stone fruit and blueberry category director for Homegrown Organic Farms, Porterville, CA, told OPN this week that the crops are progressing nicely. “Though we haven’t had much rain, the weather has been very good for stone fruits. We appear to have a good crop of each fruit. I believe we are going to have more volume per acre, and there are more acres,” Paul said. “It won’t be a dynamic change, but the trend is increasing supplies. For the most part, increased demand continues to outpace supply.”
“Though we haven’t had much rain, the weather has been very good for stone fruits. We appear to have a good crop of each fruit.” -Stephen Paul
It is difficult to gauge what total organic stone fruit volume is, Paul said, as there is no longer a central industry committee keeping track of acreage planted or estimating crop size as the California Tree Fruit Agreement once did. At the same time, many growers are going to high-density plantings, with up to 75 percent more trees per acre. That logically means more fruit per acre, Paul said, but it’s tough to predict how much more until the fruit is off the trees and in the boxes.
Homegrown organic peaches
Organic apricots will start in early May, followed by nectarines in mid-May and peaches and plums toward the end of May, according to Paul. Homegrown will also have specialty stone fruits, including organic apriums and pluots available this summer. Apricots will last through June while the other stone fruits will stretch further into the summer with Homegrown’s final stone fruit shipments in October.
“We will have organic stone fruit from the first week of May to the first week of October,” said Paul. “We should have something to promote at least from the third week of May through mid-July. Retailers should feel free to set up promotions for Memorial Day and Fourth of July.”
Homegrown organic nectarines
The year of COVID turned out to be a good year for produce providers, Paul believes, as consumers seemed to adopt the mantra “you are what you eat.” The current organic citrus deal in the valley is continuing to show very strong consumer demand, and he expects that to spill over to other fruits this spring and summer.
Cindy Richter, Director of Business Development, Fruit World Co.
Also bullish on this year’s organic stone fruit crop is Cindy Richter, director of business development for Reedley, CA-based Fruit World Company. “The apricot crop is huge,” she said. “We have never seen so much fruit on the trees. We will have promotable volume from mid-May through June.”
The year of COVID turned out to be a good year for produce providers, Paul believes, as consumers seemed to adopt the mantra “you are what you eat.”
Fruit World is expecting to pick its first organic apricot trees on April 28, followed by organic cherries a few days later. The cherry crop is also looking very good, Richter said, with growers crossing their fingers that rains expected over this upcoming weekend (April 24 and 25) skirt the orchards that are closest to being harvest ready.
Fruit World cherries almost ready for harvest
Rain on cherries when they are full of sugar and near harvest is not a good thing, Richter said, adding that it has been colder in recent days, which will hopefully slow down the fruit’s maturity and spare it from any damage if heavy rains ensue.
After its organic cherries and apricots are well under way and moving toward the second half of the season, Fruit World will start in with its small but celebrated organic peach and nectarine deal. The company represents the well-known organic peaches and nectarines from Masumoto Family Farm. Richter anticipated the production of those two crops will start in late May or early June, as they did in 2020.
Dominic DeFrancesco, Sales, Trinity Fruit
Dominic DeFrancesco, who is on the sales desk for Trinity Fruit Company, Fresno, CA, gave an abbreviated report on his firm’s organic production, echoing comments from other grower-shippers.
“We are about three to four weeks away from starting our organic season,” he said. “We will have organic nectarines, peaches, and plums starting around mid-May.
DeFrancesco said both the conventional and organic stone fruits appear to have set a solid crop this season: “We had good chill hours and right now the fruit on the trees looks really good.”