Prune growers say 2020 was a good year for the crop in terms of sizing, quality, flavour and sugar content
Buoyed by a healthy, if relatively short, crop however, California prune growers have found hopeful sales and are looking ahead to 2021 with optimism, says the California Prune Board.
Donn Zea, Executive Director of the company, said: “Agriculture, like other sectors, has been adversely impacted by the pandemic. The food service industry in particular has been devasted because of restrictions and lockdowns.
“However, with more people choosing to get creative in their own kitchens, consumers have been raiding their store cupboards and experimenting with ingredients they might not normally think to use, such as dried fruit. Consumers are also looking for natural foods with nutritional benefits, and that’s a trend we’ve seen reflected in our sales in Europe and the Far East in particular. We’re hopeful that it continues, especially given California Prunes contain vitamins and minerals that play a part in maintaining healthy immune systems.”
In response to the challenges posed by the both the fires and the pandemic, California Prune growers have reportedly adapted well. Donn said: “Mother Nature waits for no one so, when the harvest came, California Prune growers and their teams worked against the backdrop of smoke, the intense heat of the summer sun and the COVID-19 workplace guidance necessary to keep everyone safe.”
California Prune grower John Taylor, of Taylor Brother Farms in Yuba City, CA, said: “The pandemic has affected operations, but we felt it less in the orchards, where we were able to separate workers more easily. Our priority this year has been to keep our teams healthy and get through the harvest.”
Fellow Yuba City grower Nick Micheli, of Micheli Enterprises said: “It was important we responded immediately with the correct procedures such as the implementation of sanitisers, gloves and masks to keep our people safe. Working in PPE in the heat was of course tricky but everyone pulled together under difficult circumstances.”
As challenging as 2020 has been, both growers say it’s been a ‘vintage’ year for the prunes themselves, in terms of sizing, quality, consistent flavour and excellent sugar content.
Donn added: “We’re extremely proud of our California Prunes and the value they can add to the trade and the end consumer in terms of nutritional profile, premium taste and versatility – a process that begins right back in the orchards.”
With 2021 just around the corner, the Board claims its well-placed to respond to the trend towards healthier eating, and that its produce comes backed with decades of research into the benefits of eating prunes.