American producers are working to remain competitive in the world prune market as other countries are able to produce and sell their products at lower costs. Exports to Hong Kong and Germany were down significantly in the first quarter of the 2018-19 marketing year. However, the USDA’s Foreign Agricultural Service indicates that American prune exports increased 11 percent overall during that time.
“The international market’s grown particularly in South America; Chile and Argentina. Their production has steadily increased up until recently,” said Franz Niederholzer, Tree Crop Farm Advisor for Colusa, Yuba, and Sutter Counties. “I’m not a marketer but I know that when growers consider their cropload management and things of that nature it’s a global market and they’re competing for export as well as domestically.”
California is responsible for nearly all U.S. prune production, with exports accounting for close to half of the industry’s trade volume. The prunes that are produced in California are known for their quality especially when compared to lower-cost producers, which keeps the fruit competitive in the world prune market. “California quality and consistency is attractive to the trade and to consumers,” Prune Bargaining Board President Ranvir Singh said in a news release. “Customers are finding that other sources of prunes just don’t have the same quality they have come to expect from California.”
In a recent article, Niederholzer suggests that producing larger fruit may be able to provide better returns and offers management practices that may allow growers to maximize their income per acre. Managing overall cropload by pruning and thinning trees can be helpful. Avoiding an early harvest time and waiting for the fruit to be fully mature is also advised to allow for maximum sugar content. Niederholzer noted that larger fruit is “what packers tell me they want, but growers, of course, can do what they feel’s right, but competing in a big field with low-cost competitors seems like a tougher row to hoe than trying to grow big stuff.”
Listen to the report below.