CLOVIS, CA -- Growers in California's San Joaquin Valley were assessing crop damage the week of April 16 following a series of storms over the previous week that caused severe damage to stone fruit and other crops, mainly in the central part of the valley.
Some of the most severe damage appears to be in Kings and Tulare counties, particularly in the vicinity if Kingsburg, Traver and Hanford, from hailstorm on Wednesday, April 11. Hailstones from one-half to one inch in diameter pelted orchards, stripping trees of leaves and fruit and leaving orchard floors littered with fallen fruit.
In the Hanford area, three of Warmerdam Packing's six large peach and nectarine ranches had varying degrees of damage, according to Maurice Cameron, managing partner in Flavor Tree Fruit Co., which sells the Warmerdam deal. Cherries received some damage, but most of the cherry orchards in the path of the storm were at a less vulnerable stage than larger stone fruit, he said.
The hailstorm in "that middle district" is the kind that "nobody likes to see," said Jim Hansen, a salesman at Grower Direct in Watsonville, CA.
"Hail has a specific path," Mr. Hansen said, "and oftentimes we have seen orchards that have hail damage in one half of the orchard and not a bit in the other half."
Also on April 11, a powerful storm cell pummeled Merced County further north, passing between Merced and Atwater and leaving destruction in its wake. In that area, "you've got a lot of canning peaches," Mr. Hansen said. There are also some blueberries in that area. "I cannot think of any cherries in that area at all."
"Right now, we are getting pretty widespread estimates here," Barry Bedwell, president of the Fresno, CA-based California Grape & Tree Fruit League, said April 16, adding that county commissioners were in process of putting together statistics on the extent of the overall losses. "We have heard reports from individual growers," he said.
As one of the growers remarked, "there are some people in denial" claiming that they have had no losses at all, Mr. Bedwell continued. Others have said that they are "100 percent wiped out."
Box estimates of losses to stone fruit have varied so widely that "we dare not talk about them, " but with regard to dollar losses, "we are clearly going to be into the tens of millions of dollars in peaches plums, nectarines and a few apricots," said Mr. Bedwell.
Additional damage to stone fruit crops was done by a second storm that passed through the valley on Friday, April 13, "but I have not heard any details" of where that damage occurred," Mr. Bedwell said.
One major grower, who spoke off the record, remarked that he was doubtful if anyone in the valley had not received some degree of damage from one or another of the storms.