Here is the Feb. 17, California Fruit and Nut Review from the Sacramento, Calif., office of the National Agricultural Statistics Service.

January crop comment

California’s dry weather continued during January as drought conditions began to threaten fruit and nut orchards in the San Joaquin Valley.

Pruning, fertilizing and weed spraying continued in grape vineyards and dormant stone fruit orchards. Pre-emergent and contact herbicides were applied to orchard floors.

Flower buds began developing on nectarine and apricot trees. Kiwifruit was harvested in various locations and olive trees were pruned. Raspberry and strawberry nursery stock digging continued, but was nearly completed by month’s end.

Herbicide spraying, insect trapping, and pruning remained underway in nut orchards. Almond, walnut, and pistachio growers also removed and replaced old, non-productive trees. Almond trees were budding in some areas by the end of the month.

The colder temperatures early in the month were beneficial for citrus fruit in California to obtain its natural color and increase shelf life, but dry weather continued and the orange crop in the San Joaquin Valley began to show some drought damage.

Fruit in orange, lemon, mandarin, and grapefruit groves continued developing as harvest progressed. Citrus varieties harvested during January included: Clementines; Blood, Cara Cara and navel oranges; Murcott tangerines; Minneola tangelos; lemons; and Melo Gold, Pummelo, Oro Blanco, and Cocktail grapefruit.

Summary of grape tonnages and prices

California’s 2008 crush totaled 3,665,375 tons, down less than 1 percent from the 2007 crush of 3,674,453 tons, according to the Preliminary Grape Crush Report released Feb. 10. Wine type grapes crushed at 3,054,152 tons were down 6 percent from the previous year.

Red wine varieties accounted for the largest share of all grapes crushed, at 1,709,040 tons, down 9 percent from 2007.

The 2008 white wine variety crush totaled 1,345,112 tons, down 2 percent from 2007.

Tons crushed of raisin type varieties totaled 494,124, up 36 percent from 2007.

Tons crushed of table type varieties totaled 117,099, up 85 percent from 2007.

California grape growers received prices in 2008 for red wine, white wine, raisin, and table grapes that were, on average, above the 2007 prices.

The 2008 average price of all varieties was $544.18, up 4 percent from 2007.

Average prices per ton for the 2008 crop by type were: red wine grapes, $642.87, up 3 percent from 2007; white wine grapes, $538.74, up 12 percent from 2007; raisin grapes, $224.02, up 44 percent; and table grapes, $189.27, up 37 percent. These price levels have not been adjusted for inflation.

Leading grape varieties and districts

In 2008, Chardonnay accounted for the largest percentage of the total crush volume with 15.4 percent. Thompson Seedless accounted for the second leading percentage of crush with 11.9 percent of the total crush. The next eight highest percentages of grapes crushed were all wine varieties.

Grapes produced in District 4 (Napa County) received the highest average price of $3,390.64 per ton, up 4 percent from 2007. District 3 (Sonoma and Marin counties) received the second highest return of $2,235.30, up 7 percent from 2007.

The 2008 Chardonnay price of $815.00 was up 14 percent from 2007, and the Cabernet Sauvignon price of $1,098.47 was up 11 percent from 2007.

The 2008 average price for Zinfandel was $459.53, down 2 percent from 2007, while the Merlot average price was up 9 percent from 2007 at $646.52 per ton.

This preliminary report includes all grape tonnage crushed during the 2008 season, as well as purchased tonnage and pricing information with final prices prior to Jan. 10. The Final Grape Crush Report will be available on March 10.