Positive News & Opportunities at 54th Annual Membership Meeting
YUBA CITY, CA, July 27, 2023 – The 54th Annual Membership Meeting of the Prune Bargaining Association (PBA) and 9th Annual Membership meeting of the California Prune Growers Marketing Association (CPGMA) provided PBA prune growers with perspective on current field prices for prunes and positive market news along with guidance on harvest timing, and screening (or not screening) small prunes.
California prune production last year is expected to reach only 75,000 tons, down from 82,000 tons in 2021. Prunes smaller than 80 count initially ran only 7% of the crop compared to 13% in 2021. The sharp reduction in smaller sizes prompted some packers to buy up small prunes from growers and resulted in modest field price increases on some small sizes by most packers.
CPGMA and one independent packer, however, returned sharply higher prices, with the CPGMA returning $800 more per ton compared to what most packers paid growers for small prunes. One medium size independent packer again returned much higher prices than other packers on 80 and smaller fruit with similar returns to CPGMA and even higher prices on some smaller prunes than the suggested PBA price schedule.
PBA Manager, Greg Thompson, pointed out that keeping focus on producing high quality larger fruit matches California markets. Crops that average in the average size count range of 55 to 60 produces the most pitting sizes for our industry. The higher costs and higher risks of that focus, however, require higher field prices for large prunes.
For the 2022 crop, the PBA recommended $2,700 per ton on 60 and larger prunes, with a price schedule that would return an average of $2,400 to $2,500 per ton. Most packers paid prices of no more than $2,300 or $2,400 per ton on large prunes with an average return of $2,000 to $2,100 per ton. One small packer included in the PBA Field Price comparison, however, paid $3,000 per ton on 60 and larger fruit with an average return of $2,300 to $2,400.
PBA members have access to information and marketing options for smaller prunes through the PBA and the CPGMA which helps reduce risk for growers and improves profitability. As growers face decisions about harvest decisions and marketing their prunes, PBA members are encouraged to view the annual meeting presentation which is posted in the members' section on the PBA website. Members are encourage to look at the PBA field price comparison by packer name along with information on small prunes and marketing opportunities through the CPGMA.
Members can find information in 'Field Prices, Small Prunes, Screening Decisions, & Marketing Opportunities with CPGMA' and 'PBA Annual Membership Meeting 2023 Pricing Report' under the ‘Members’ Only’ password protected section found at prunebargaining.com.
California Prune Growers Suffer the Brunt
YUBA CITY, CA, July 27, 2020 – California prune growers forced economically to make a 23% reduction in crop deliveries have also suffered a 28% reduction in price. This hardship comes in spite of a number of positive factors for the industry including $50 million in USDA purchases of prunes and positive results from trade mitigation offsets and industry promotion efforts in Japan and elsewhere. Growers reviewed the daunting double hit to grower returns from a number of factors including the disruption to trade caused by the coronavirus pandemic at the 52nd annual membership meeting of the Prune Bargaining Association (PBA) held on Thursday last week by conference call/video conference.
Average grower returns for a number of growers will fall by more than $500 per ton from the previous crop year according to data presented by PBA General Manager Greg Thompson. “Growers are to be commended for the tremendous efforts they have made to match production with demand,” explained Thompson. “Growers were told they would be paid little or nothing for smaller prunes, so they increased their efforts to prune, thin, and then screen out fruit at harvest, bringing the crop down from an estimated 110,000 tons to 85,000 tons.” As background, according to the University of California, growers have an investment of nearly $18,000 per acre (not including land) to establish a prune orchard. Growers spend an additional $4,194 per acre each year to produce and deliver the crop. “The extra effort made this past year by growers increases expenses and reduces yields,” explains Thompson. “It is truly a double whammy to have grower prices fall so precipitously.”
The brutal cut to grower prices comes in the face of many positives for the industry. Imports of cheaper but poorer quality prunes are down 76% for the first 5 months of year, while domestic shipments of California prunes are up 13%. USDA programs in response to unfair and retaliatory tariffs and trade barriers, and needy family feeding programs, have helped offset losses in overseas markets and gain back market share. Shipments to Japan, a key market for California prunes, are up 14% over the previous year. Over the past 3 years, the USDA has purchased nearly $50 million of prunes for needy families, school lunch, and other feeding programs.
One of the biggest positives for the California prune growers comes from a united industry working together to promote health and wellness through nutrition research. “Everbody wants to make a health claim these days,” explains Ranvir Singh, PBA President. “But prunes are the tried and true healthy and completely natural food. There is so much more to the health benefits of eating prunes than anyone first imagined.” Scientific research is revealing more and more about the importance of gut health to overall health. Prunes have been shown to have a positive impact on both gut health and bone health, among other bonuses. “The benefits of micro-nutrients, boron, potassium, fiber and an apparent anti- inflammation benefit in gut make prunes a truly remarkable food,” remarks Singh.
The Prune Bargaining Association was formed in 1968 as a grower-owned cooperative to improve the economy of the California prune industry, encourage the production of a quality product and provide a forum for growers to exchange ideas regarding the industry. The PBA establishes the industry’s raw product price for prunes.
(Note: the meeting presentation is posted in the members' section. Look for the PBA Annual Membership Meeting 2020 Pricing Report)