The 2017 California dried plum (prune) crop is forecast at 105,000 tons, up 106% from the 51,000 tons reported to the California Dried Plum Board as produced in 2016. The French prune variety accounts for virtually all dried plum acreage grown in California.
This year is not expected to produce a bumper crop, it’s more a case of a return to normal, says University of California Cooperative Extension Orchard Systems Farm Advisor Franz Niederholzer.
“The 2016 crop was a disaster,” Niederholzer says. “A cold, wet, and windy bloom that year produced very, very low yields – 20% to 40% of normal for many growers.
In fact, acreage is actually down slightly this year. Total 2017 bearing acreage is estimated at 44,000, 2% below the previous year.
One grower, John Amarel of Reason Farms in Yuba City, says the 2016 crop was their worst ever. The 2017 crop is just about right.
“This year we have an average crop on the older trees and the younger trees seem to have a slightly better than average crop,” Amarel says. “We did not have too heavy of a crop where we needed to shaker-thin to maintain size.”
And while the heavy rains this past winter in California were certainly a blessing, Amarel says they are having a real problem from bacterial canker killing 2- to 4-year-old trees. The heavy rains may have exacerbated the problem, he says.
The production forecast is based on a survey of dried plum growers conducted through May 31 by the USDA National Agricultural Statistics Service’s Pacific Regional Office. The survey uses a random sampling design based on total dried plum acreage for each operator.
The sample is designed to provide a state estimate of production for all growers. Responses were received from 217 growers.