U.S.: California pomegranates set for another early start
Speaking with www.freshfruitportal.com, Ruby Fresh domestic sales manager David Anthony said the company's first variety, Early Foothill, will likely be harvested around Sept. 10-12.
"In California there are some pomegranates around Bakersfield that are currently being harvested, but they're small in size. Probably this week we'll begin to see some other early varieties, but again these will be small volumes," he said.
Anthony said volumes will pick up in mid-September, with Ruby Fresh expecting to begin harvests of its Early Wonderful variety around then.
Volume will be strong from mid-October through the Thanksgiving Day pull with a resurgence in fresh pomegranate demand prior to Christmas, he added.
Like many other California crops, pomegranates are also tending to be earlier this year, with Anthony giving a 'conservative' harvest date estimate of Oct. 15 for the company's main variety Wonderful, which the representative said was far superior to many cultivars that have recently entered the market.
"I've heard once again all of these other varieties are early, but I think the pomegranate marches to a beat of its own drummer," he said.
Ruby Fresh's overall Wonderful volume is estimated to be similar to last season and early indicators are that sizing will be trending toward larger size fruit, with size 22-24 being the peak.
Around 80% of the organization's volumes are typically sold in the U.S. and Canadian markets, but Anthony said the U.S. dollar's strengthening over the Canadian dollar could see shipments north of the border decline.
"There is some concern in Canada about the exchange rates right now, and I believe that will have some impact on overall produce shipments - not just pomegranates," he said, adding that last year there was a lot of movement into Canada as the two currencies were very similar.
"So that does change some shipping strategies of the fruit, and for example we may see more fruit going toward some other strong pomegranate markets such as South Korea and Australia," he said.
However, if exports to all markets are less this season due to the strong U.S. dollar, Anthony said good domestic demand meant all the fruit should be absorbed by the U.S. market without problems.
One of Ruby Fresh's business segments that is anticipated to perform very well again this season is its arils, with 25-30% growth expected this season, having grown 40% last year.
To handle these volumes, a major plant expansion was performed over the summer and Ruby Fresh has now doubled its aril packing capacity.
The company's production is anticipated to remain stable from last year as new acreage hasn't been planted, but according to Anthony there had been some reports of large amounts of pomegranate-growing land being converted to pistachio production.
Photo: Anton Croos, via Wikimedia Creative Commons