Big California kiwifruit crop tilts toward large sizes

Big volumes, a big size profile and excellent quality sum up this season’s crop of California kiwifruit, grower-shippers and industry officials say.

Big California kiwifruit crop tilts toward large sizes

Fruit has been sizing very big for Western Fresh Marketing Services Inc., Madera, Calif., with an abundance of 30s and larger, said Chris Kragie, vice president.

The Italian kiwifruit deal, which overlaps significantly with the California deal, also is peaking on large fruit, he said.

“It’s a very interesting year for smaller fruit,” Kragie said.

Nick Matteis, assistant manager of the Sacramento-based California Kiwifruit Commission, said some shippers were concerned about the abundance of large fruit, but others weren’t.

While Italy’s fruit was sizing large this season, bacterial canker could cut Italian volumes 15% to 20%, Matteis said, though it was unclear what affect that might have on exports to the U.S.

Demand for smaller kiwifruit is strongest in the foodservice sector, Kragie said.

Normally, big fruit commands a higher price than medium and small fruit, Kragie said. This season, however, he expects prices to be similar across the board, with markets likely in the $12-14 range heading into Thanksgiving.

On Nov. 2, the U.S. Department of Agriculture reported prices of $15.10-16.10 for 19.8-pound containers of California hayward 27s, down from $15.50-16.50 last year at the same time.

Hayward 39s were $14.10-14.25, up from $12.10-13.10 last year.

“Prices started higher than last year and up to this point have been good,” Matteis said. “Whether they go up or stay flat is the question. If you don’t have the size distribution, the question is whether you can get the maximum price for the large fruit.”

California grower-shippers could lean more heavily on export markets to move fruit this season. Mexico, Korea and Hong Kong in particular all prefer big kiwifruit, Kragie said.

Weekly volumes were up for Western Fresh through October, Kragie said. Indus-trywide, California expects to ship 8 million trays this season, up from 6.5 million trays last year, Matteis said.

Kragie reported excellent quality on this year’s California kiwifruit crop, with just 1% of Western Fresh’s fruit being culled.

Western Fresh began packing in mid-September and expects to pack until Dec. 1, about two weeks later than normal, Kragie said.

Matteis said most shippers expected to pack until Thanksgiving, a typical end to the deal


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