Crop report burnishes bright spots in fruit harvest
By TIM HEARDEN
RED BLUFF, Calif. -- There were plenty of delectable peaches customers could choose at Chris Burlison's fruit stand on a recent evening.
"It's been a pretty plentiful year as far as peaches, which is surprising because of the weather," said Burlison, who was selling fruit from his parents' Dairyville, Calif., farm at a farmers' market July 13 in Red Bluff.
"The apricots have been pretty thin because of the weather," he said. "We had a bloom in February and then the rains came."
Burlison's family has 7 acres of stone fruit to go with its 19 acres of walnuts.
California's wet spring and mild summer hasn't hampered the peach crop, which is expected to consist of 385,000 tons of freestones and 410,000 tons of clingstones. Crop sizes should reach or come near to last year's, a government report predicts.
The Golden State's freestone peaches benefited from an adequate number of chilling hours and weather from the boom was accommodating, according to the USDA National Agricultural Statistics Service's monthly crop report. Growers are expecting to thin more because of the good set.
"There have been some reports of hail damage on the early varieties, but overall the crop is looking good," said the report, issued July 12. Harvest of the earliest varieties began in May.
Clingstones' development was slowed by spring rains and lower-than-normal April temperatures, but early varieties achieved a heavy set while later ones were reported to have an average set, the NASS report observes.
Among other crops, according to NASS:
* Grapes -- for wine and snacking -- are holding their own with a projected 6.7 million-ton yield, less than 1 percent off last year's production, despite spring weather that put the crop a week or two behind schedule.
The winegrape forecast of 3.4 million tons is down 6 percent from last season, but the projected table grape production of 1.1 million tons would eclipse last year's by 9 percent. The raisin grape yield is expected to be 2.2 million tons, or 6 percent more than 2010.
* Apricot growers throughout the Central Valley are apparently seeing a light crop. The expected 55,000-ton yield statewide would be down 7 percent from 2010. The harvest is expected to wrap up by the end of this month.
* Navel orange growers have finished up a harvest that produced a record 96 million cartons, eclipsing the government's forecast at the beginning of the season and topping last year's production by 13 percent.
This year's quality wasn't as good as last season's, when utility rates were above 80 percent, but later varieties had excellent quality.
The Valencia orange harvest has picked up as the domestic fresh market has shifted away from navels. Valencia growers are expected to produce 26 million cartons, down 13 percent from last year's crop.
* California farmers are expected to produce about 42 million cartons of lemons, matching last year's yield. Fruit quality was good as lemons preserved well in groves and storage. The harvest is finished in the San Joaquin Valley but is continuing in the southern coastal region.
The report was based on surveys of growers held in the last week of June and first week of July.
California Crop Production Report: www.nass.usda.gov/Statistics_by_State/California/Publications/Other_Files/201107crppd.pdf