The industry doesn’t expect a major disruption in grape and tree fruit volume in 2014, said Barry Bedwell, president of the California Grape & Tree Fruit League.
“There could be a slight reduction, but I don’t think it will be anywhere in the neighborhood of (10% to 20%),” Bedwell said.
“Our message is that the overall crop level may come down, but not to a point I think where anybody should be anticipating a disruption in available supplies for consumers. I just don’t see it.”
Bedwell said he doesn’t see any large parcels of grapes or tree fruit being bulldozed this year. Groundwater management issues will be hotly debated in the next year, he said.
“There’s no question we are looking at one of the most serious drought situations that most people can remember,” he said.
Kevin Bateman, a salesman with Salinas, Calif.-based Produce Alliance, said Salinas area suppliers have indicated no drought-related reduction in lettuce acreage through the first crop cycle that extends to mid-June.
Following that, he said growers have said there may be issues of the quality of water being pumped, relating to higher salt content. That could hurt yields and may cause acreage reduction later in the season, Bateman said.
While the Arizona State study may have overestimated the drought’s effect on some commodities, Joel Nelsen, president of California Citrus Mutual, Exeter, said the study failed to account for the effect of the drought on citrus growers.
“There are some acres getting bulldozed,” he said. “Growers are deciding block A will survive but block B will go down.”
Overall, Nelsen said about 50,000 acres of citrus out of 200,000 acres of total citrus acreage are vulnerable to the drought on the east side of the San Joaquin Valley. It is unknown how many acres might be bulldozed this year.
“Prices this year have been higher than historical levels because of the freeze in December,” he said.
Citrus trees were setting a crop in the spring, and Nelsen said an inadequate supply of water could result in reduced harvest of navels in October.
Any citrus acres removed will have an ongoing effect, Nelsen said.
“It takes six years from the time you replant to begin harvesting,” he said. If all 50,000 acres are lost, that would equal a $3 billion hit to growers, Nelsen said.