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Sage cites excellent stone fruit crop set during bloom

Late May predictions by Chuck Sinks, president of Sage Fruit Co. in Yakima, WA, for the 2017 stone fruit season called for good volume with a somewhat later start to harvest.

“So far, so good,” Sinks said when asked how the Northwest stone fruit season is shaping up. “The longer winter and cooler spring temperatures that the Pacific Northwest experienced this year have pushed harvest dates back a bit from last season, but overall we had an excellent crop set during bloom.”

Sinks said volume for apricots is expected to exceed 200,000 boxes, and peaches will come in “close to 75,000 boxes.” He added that nectarines should come in at approximately 55,000 boxes.

sage-Stone-Fruit-Pic-ATouting the flavor and beauty of Washington stone fruit, a Sage Fruit Co. promotional piece features peaches. Photo courtesy of Sage Fruit Co.“The first to come off the trees will be apricots, followed by nectarines and then peaches,” Sinks said. “Harvest of apricots looks to begin around June 14 and will go through the beginning of August with shipments extending into the middle of August. Nectarine season should get started in the latter part of July, likely around the 20th, and continue until late August. The last of our stone fruit to begin harvest is peaches, and they should start at the end of July, the 31st–ish, and will finish up in the middle of September.”

The Sage stone fruit program has not changed this season, and Sinks said, “Our volume is looking in line with last year, maybe slightly up. With the cold spell that came through the East Coast this past spring, where a good portion of peaches are grown, there is the potential that we will see an increased demand for the Washington crop.” 

In limited distribution, Sage is sampling a new pack option this year. Sinks said, “We are adding a two-pound pouch this season to try with a small group of customers. Other than that, all of our stone fruit commodities will be packed in a Panta Pak or volume-fill box under the Valicoff Fruit label.”

He continued, “We feel it is important to highlight that all of our fruit is tree-ripened and hand-packed. Valicoff Fruit Co. has perfected a unique, tree-ripe program for soft fruit. In doing this, we are able to allow the fruit to hang on the tree longer, thereby yielding a higher brix level.”

Special handling is also part of the Sage approach, and Sinks said, “By eliminating an automated line, Valicoff also ensures minimal bruising occurs at the time of packing and the fruit is ready to consume once it reaches the store level.” 

Special campaigns touting Washington fruit are being set up with retailers now for the month of July, and Sinks said, “We hope to tie in cherry and apricot promotions.”

In addition to its domestic distribution, Sage Fruit Co. is also reaching export markets. “We do look to export but will focus on Canada more so than other countries,” Sinks said.