Sweet cherry, almond crops appear large; tart cherry, peach crops suffer from weather

07/26/2006 02:00:00 AM

Growers received higher prices in May and June for many fruit compared with the
same two months in 2005, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture's National Agricultural Statistics Service.

This May, prices were higher for lemons, oranges, fresh apples and strawberries than last May. In June, record-high prices for table grapes, along with higher prices for fresh apples and peaches, drove up the grower price index to a record high.

The forecast for U.S. sweet cherry production is 536.8 million pounds, up 7 percent from a year ago but 5 percent less than in 2004.

Larger crops are expected in Washington and Oregon, two of the leading sweet-cherry producing States; as well as in Idaho, New York and Utah. California’s crop is forecast to be down from a year ago, driving up prices early in the season.

U.S. tart cherry production is forecast at 255.7 million pounds, 5 percent less than a year
ago but 20 percent above 2004. A smaller crop is forecast for Michigan, the largest tart
cherry-producing state in the country.

Although the smaller domestic crop may put pressure on tart cherry grower prices, large carryover stocks of frozen tart cherries from the big 2005 crop will likely mitigate any significant increase in prices growers will receive from processors.

U.S. peach production is forecast at 2.12 billion pounds, down 11 percent from 2005 and
19 percent less than 2004. Of the three major producing states, production declines are expected in California and South Carolina, but the Georgia crop is forecast up.

Reduced production and a late start to the season, especially in California, have driven peach prices higher for this season through June.

The 2006 almond crop is forecast to reach 1.050 billion pounds shelled. If realized,
it would be 15 percent larger than last year and the second-largest crop on record.

Beginning stocks for the 2006-07 season will likely be less than the past few years due to the
small 2005 crop, somewhat moderating an expected increase in total supplies as well as
any expected decline in grower prices.

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