Olives market face steep decline for 2020

Heat and labor challenges predict more than a 50,000-ton drop in olive forecast

TULARE COUNTY – Olive production in the market will be pretty disappointing this year thanks in large part to this year’s exhaustive heat and labor challenges.

The 2020 California table olive forecast is 30,000 tons, down considerably from last year’s crop of 89,400 tons, according to a survey conducted by the USDA and National Agricultural Statistics Service, Pacific Regional Office. Bearing acreage is estimated at 15,500, which results in a yield of 1.94 tons per acre.

The Manzanillo production forecast is 25,500 tons, Sevillano production forecast is 4,000 tons, and other varieties are expected to total 500 tons.

High heat and winds during bloom caused a poor set for California table olives. Labor costs and marketing remains an issue for California olives growers, with many uncertain how much of their crop will be economical to harvest.

Olives are an alternate bearing crop generating wild swings in production year by year. Tulare County has just under 11,000 acres of olives, up from 2,000 when the county had 9,000 acres but down from the 1990s when the county had nearly double that.

Valencia oranges see price boost

The Central Valley Valencia orange crop is a pleasant surprise for hard hit citrus growers in Tulare County this year as Citrus Mutual reports. Valencia, the juice orange, is selling at prices that are substantially higher than last year and the 2014-2018 average. Growers are seeing an average price of $17 this year compared to $12.75 last year for a 50/lb field box – 138 size.

For once farmers may be able to thank the COVID-19 pandemic for  the boost in demand for the Vitamin C filled oranges that ripen in the spring and summer in California just as consumers are wary of the virus.

Sunkist Growers say they are launching a campaign speaking to “the all-American summer,” the fruit’s immune-boosting qualities, and juicing nostalgia.

Early this summer oranges have been one of the top sellers in produce. In a recent consumer survey, Sunkist learned that the most important factor when buying citrus is the high vitamin C content.

“Consumers are always interested in keeping their immune systems strong, and citrus is one of the easiest ways to consume this powerful antioxidant,” said Julie DeWolf, director of marketing operations at Sunkist Growers. “The research also divulged that consumers greatly prefer purchasing domestically grown products when they are available, so we have developed a ready-to-go marketing campaign to continue to support the citrus category and to keep the U.S.-grown promotions going strong.”

“More and more, consumers want to know about the health benefits of what they’re eating,” said Christina Ward, director of global brand marketing at Sunkist Growers.

Tulare County is the largest Valencia orange producer in California with 12,000 acres planted. The variety has played second fiddle to navels who enjoy 66,000 acres planted in the county. Farmers have been pulling Valencia trees in the past decade. In 2008 there were nearly 20,000 acres of this juicy orange.

Citrus Mutual says navel orange prices for the season that just ended varied in price compared to their four-year average. Size 48 prices were higher but 56’s, 72’s and 88’s were down. Prices have also been hurt by the trade war.

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