The California Grape and Tree Fruit League, which represents growers of peaches, plums and nectarines, is likely to have a new name by years end, Bedwell said.

“Something simpler such as the California Fresh Fruit Association,” he said.

As with many agricultural industries, considerable consolidation has occurred in tree fruit in recent years. The number of independent growers continues to decrease and stands at between 200 and 250 compared to 700 ten years ago. And shippers total a dozen, accounting for 80 percent of the market.

 

 

Bedwell is expecting a tree fruit crop of around 45 million boxes as bearing acreage declines to less than 80,000.

A whopping 41 percent of the crop is exported and there are new export opportunities in Australia.

The number of growers of table grapes now stands at 464. The industry has now successfully marketed two crops in a row over 100 million boxes, Bedwell said.

 

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China is among the top markets for U.S. exports, but Bedwell pointed out it is also a producer of grapes that is seeking to import into the United States.

As for California production, Bedwell said, “The outlook in the near term remains very optimistic with a continued trend toward newer and proprietary varieties.”

Citrus

Among the biggest shifts in citrus is surging growth in easy-peeling mandarins, said David Krause, president of Paramount Citrus.

That variety, which was grown on 5,000 acres in California in 2000, is now grown on 60,000 acres, a twelvefold increase.

Paramount has adopted two brands for mandarins, Cuties and Wonderful Halos and is plowing $20 million for each of the next five years into promotion of the Halos.

 

 

“That’s serious money,” Krause said. But he added that Paramount is still investing in production of the easy peelers and has seen strong consumer demand.

Paramount is looking into other citrus varieties, including a seedless lemon and ruby Valencia.

Krause said changed maturity standards are helping ensure shoppers leave with a good taste in their mouth: “We say that we sell by the case and satisfy by the piece.”

He said the toll taken by a December freeze is yet to be known and will vary by region and variety. He said expansion in the industry has led to some planting in areas more susceptible to freezing.

His estimates: As much as 45 percent of the navel orange crop was lost. For mandarins, losses could amount to 35 to 50 percent; for lemons 20 percent to 25 percent and for Valencias 35 percent to 50 percent.