State of the Fruit Industry: Growers to Keep on Chugging

The nation’s fruit growers, in the main, like their prospects for the coming year. Consumers are looking for better flavor and nutrition. Buoyed by new varieties and technology, growers know they have good products and they’re looking forward to providing them.

Those were the chief takeaways from American Fruit Grower® and Western Fruit Grower® magazines’ second annual State of the Industry survey. Again this year our survey elicited a warm response, as a total of 632 growers, researchers and allied industry members 1/17 SOI Feature Imagesuch as vendors, suppliers, and distributors weighed in. More than two-thirds are involved in production — 429 growers or grower/packers shared their insights. More than two-thirds of respondents are involved in production — 429 growers or grower/packers shared their insights.

Over the next several pages, we’ll present what’s on the minds of your industry counterparts. You’ll hear from not only growers, but suppliers and researchers. You’ll read about such topics as where the next generation of growers (GenNext GrowersSM) might be coming from and trends in direct marketing.

Interestingly, some of the results were remarkably similar to those from last year’s inaugural survey, at least in terms of production plans for the coming year, with growers largely echoing their 2016 plans. About half plan on similar production for the coming year, with about 40% or so looking to expand acreage, and about 10% scaling back in 2017.

There are two exceptions to the production trends. One is in citrus — these are mostly West Coast fresh-market citrus growers, not the orange juice growers of Florida, and we cover them in Western Fruit Grower — as no growers said they were going to decrease production in the coming year. That’s partly a result of the extraordinarily large number of growers — nearly one in four — who said they would reduce production in 2016. In other words, those who planned to cut back, likely because of fears of the incurable disease huanglongbing (HLB), have already done so.

The other exception is in grapes. Expansion plans have been curtailed, as only 17% of growers said they were going to increase production in 2017, less than half as many who said they had planned to in 2016. This is due at least in part to the plans of winegrape growers in California’s San Joaquin Valley, who produce the bulk of the state’s — and thus the nation’s — winegrapes.

Of course, the bulk of the two crops above is produced in Golden State, where questions about water supplies abound.

One final note: New this year, we have devoted each of our main crop categories: grapes, berries, nuts and pome and stone fruit, to further explore the results of our survey. Check out what’s on the minds of not only those who produce the same crops as you, but what others might be thinking. You might be surprised.

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