While this year’s cold and wet spring led to delays and reduced production of several fruit crops, California’s 2010 kiwifruit crop is poised to be larger than a year ago, thanks to mild temperatures during the fruit-growing period that aided fruit size. Estimates from the California Kiwifruit Commission (CKC) put crop volume for the 2010/11 marketing season at around 7.5 million to 8.0 million trays, about 1.0 million trays over last season or a 15-percent increase. In 2009/10, NASS reported production at 26,000 tons or 52 million pounds. Based on this NASS figure, a 15-percent increase would bring production to around 30,000 tons in 2010/11.

If realized, this will be a second straight year of increased production for the industry and although crop volume will not be a record-breaker, it will be higher than the average crop size over the past decade. The only time NASS reported production going over this projected volume during the past decade was in 2000/01, at 34,000 tons, and in 2005/06, at 37,000 tons. Record production was reported by NASS in 1992/93 at 52,300 tons. NASS will release its first estimate for the 2010/11 California kiwifruit crop in January 2011.

Despite the higher production, the market for California kiwifruit during the 2010/11 marketing season will likely remain fairly strong as the industry expects harvest schedules to fall near normal timing with the crop producing excellent quality and larger fruit size.

During the previous season (2009/10), fruit were uniformly shaped, free of blemish, and generally larger in size than fruit produced in 2008/09, boosting both domestic and international demand and pricing of the crop. At $1,470 per ton in 2009/10, grower prices for California kiwifruit averaged 66 percent higher than in 2008/09 despite an increase in overall supplies (domestic production and imports).

Based on AMS data, cumulative shipments of California kiwifruit for the current season through early November lagged in volume from those of the previous season for the same period by 58 percent. While a few growers started harvest in early October most held off until fruit sugar contents were at the required harvest level.

As a result, California supplies did not show adequate volumes until around mid-October. Lingering supplies arriving from Chile and New Zealand during the first few weeks in October were larger compared with the same period last year, but California kiwifruit prices held almost nearly the same as last year’s. Free-onboard (f.o.b.) shipping-point prices for California kiwifruit in the Central and Northern San Joaquin Valley opened for the 2010/11 season during the week ending October 30, with those in the size 27 category ranging from $15.10 to $16.10 per 9-kilogram (or 19.8 pounds) container loose of the Hayward variety. Opening prices for size 27’s during the previous season (2009/10) were reported higher at $16.1-$17.3 on the week ending October 17, 2009 but prices by the end of the month had moved closer to this season’s opening prices at around $15.5-$16.5. This season’s opening f.o.b. prices for size 30’s and 33’s ranged from $14.8-$15.1 per 9 kilogram container loose, Hayward variety. Last year the same time, f.o.b. shipping-point prices in this size range were reported at around $14.1-$15.5.

With harvesting continuing through November, California supplies are expected to continue to build up, putting downward pressure on prices from earlier in the season and from a year ago. As of the first two weeks in November, prices for California kiwifruit in the size 27 classification already had slipped from earlier in the season, ranging from $14.5 to $16.1 per 9-kilogram container loose. Last year around the same time, prices were in the range of $14.1 to $16.50.

California’s kiwifruit production represents about one-third of all the fresh kiwifruit supplies in the country during the season. A majority of the supplies come from imports, with Chile, New Zealand, and Italy leading the way. Higher imports and an increase in domestic production boosted the year-round availability of fresh kiwifruit in the U.S. market during the 2009/10 season compared with the previous season, helping to support both export and domestic demand. Estimated at 0.5 pound per person, U.S. fresh kiwifruit consumption in 2009/10 was higher than the per capita estimates during 2001/02 to 2008/09 and nearing the more-than-half-apound levels achieved through most of the 1990’s.

Import volume during the 2009/10 season, October through September, rose 7 percent from the previous season to a record 123.6 million pounds. Imports from Chile continued to top all other foreign kiwifruit shipments to the United States in 2009/10, accounting for more than one third of total import volume and increasing 10 percent from the previous season. Imports from New Zealand also posted a gain (up 12 percent) while those from Italy declined by almost 2 percent. The combined import volume from these top sources made up nearly all of the imported kiwifruit in the United States last season. Most imports from Chile and New Zealand enter the U.S. market around the spring and summer months — the low period for California supplies. Supplies from Italy, however, overlap mostly with California’s.

Some reports cited that Italian supplies are also leaning more on large-size fruit this season but problems with bacterial canker may curtail production volume. A significant drop in Italy’s production could hamper export prospects to the United States for this season. New Zealand’s kiwifruit industry could be facing a similar threat as a bacterial vine disease of an unknown strain was recently confirmed to have infested three kiwifruit orchards in the northern part of the country and left two other orchards under quarantine.

The international marketing of U.S. fresh kiwifruit reached a total of 16 countries across the world during the 2009/10 season, with total export volume posting a gain of 5 percent over the previous season to 14.6 million pounds, valued at close to $12 million. Mexico continued to be the No. 1 export market for U.S. kiwifruit for a second straight year, surpassing Canada again—historically the leading market.

Export volume to Mexico increased 8 percent and those from Canada rose by 12 percent. Exports to top markets in Asia—Taiwan and Japan—were both down significantly. For the current season, the projected increased production in California together with the crop’s exceptional quality provides for the likely possibility of another strong season for U.S. kiwifruit exports in 2010/11. The industry has plenty of large-size fruit to move this season, a desirable attribute in some export markets including Mexico.