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Around Kings County: Pomegranate returns not wonderful

Another ag co will relocate to make room for HSR

Fumigant supplier Trical Inc is in the process of replacing its main shop building on Hanford Armona Rd on its 13 acres parcel in order to make room for high speed rail. Trical’s move, replacing a 9000sf building, will lead to construction of a new building on the other side of its parcel. That is less complicated than its neighbor, Baker Commodities, who is relocating to a new parcel because of the planned rail alignment that will go right through its current rendering facility. The cost for the new Trical building is around $900,000 according to county permits. The project was approved late last year.

Telstar wins Hanford auction of industrial land

Telstar Instruments was the successful bidder for a surplus, city-owned lot, on the east side of Irwin between 4th and 5th in Hanford November 28. The land may be more familiar to you as home of the two large rusting water tanks the are long-time landmarks in the community.

Company owner John Gardiner is listed as the buyer paying $6000 for the lot with the proviso he would have to pay for the demolition of the old structures on the land, expected to cost some $262,000. The company has corporate offices in Concord and a Hanford office at 202 S Douty. Mr Gardiner declined to comment but sources say Telstar plans to build offices on the lot.They provide instrumentation to all kinds to industry including waste-water treatment plants, food makers and pharmaceutical companies.

Pomegranate returns not so wonderful but largest grower says otherwise

Screen Shot 2018-01-10 at 8.23.52 AMA few years ago Central Valley pomegranate growers appeared to be riding a rising tide of popularity for pomegranates spurring optimism about the crop’s future. Growers, including  those in Kings County, enjoyed prices of over $1,700 a ton as recently as 2011.

After a significant planting of new trees, by 2015 pomegranate tonnage was fetching just $450 a ton in Fresno County – falling to $362 a ton in Tulare County according to their 2016 crop report.

That is better than a five-fold decrease in per-ton income.

That year, the latest year we have gross returns for, saw Tulare County pomegranate growers returns drop from $12.3 million in 2015 to $14.1 million in 2016 as farmers yanked trees. Kings County does not break out this crop on their annual crop report.

There was a dramatic decline in gross sales of pomegranates in Kern County, the largest player, declining from $191 million in 2015 to $102 million in 2016 according to their annual crop report.

So whats going on? UC Farm Advisor Kevin Day says it’s simple economics. “We are seeing both overproduction and lack of demand” for pomegranates despite expectations to the contrary.

The trees were first cultivated in Tulare County with statewide plantings climbing from 1875 acres in 1975 to 3475 in 1985 to over 12,000 acres by 2006, says Day.

But then California acreage just kept expanding to over 30,000 acres by 2012  according to Day.  Now, in the past few years, thousands of acres have been pulled – replaced with nut trees typically.

”I would not be surprised if statewide acreage is down to 10 to 15,000 acres “now, he says. CDFA does not list pomegranate acreage statewide in their annual report.

Kern is arguably the home of the largest block of pomegranates, owned by the Wonderful Company, based in LA, who accounts for as high as 79% of all pomegranate production.

Growers in recent years  have also faced higher water and some lack of water supply, cutting into profitability and translating into fewer trees.

“With all the trees that have been removed – it may stabilize the industry” predicts UC advisor Day.

Pom Wonderful may be doubling down in any case, announcing before this fall’s crop, the acquisition of Firebaugh-based Ruby Fresh. The company says they have nearly 2 million pomegranate  trees.

Despite lower crop prices Pom Wonderful appears to more than upbeat about their business prospects saying last year that sales of airls (seed pods inside a pomegranates) were “on fire.”

“The company’s juice business is also undergoing significant growth, with sales of leading product POM Wonderful 100% Pomegranate Juice up 25% year-on-year.”

This year’s crop supply may be limited by the weather according to a company statement to the the press this week that also gives a clue on acreage.

Due to unseasonably hot weather and short spouts of rainfall in California’s San Joaquin Valley, this year’s fresh pomegranate harvest was unfortunately cut short,” says Adam Cooper of Los Angeles, Ca.-based The Wonderful Company, which grows some 9,000 acres of Wonderful variety of pomegranates in Central California.  “Due to rain, we had similar pomegranate supply in 2016 and 2017.” 

If they are around 80% of statewide acreage – that would put California acreage at about 11,000 acres, down two-thirds from its high.

Pom Wonderful has marketed their super premium juice for its health benefits but they have been challenged on this.

According to Wikipedia “despite limited research data, manufacturers and marketers of pomegranate juice have liberally used results from preliminary research to promote products.[51] In February 2010, the FDA issued a Warning Letter to one such manufacturer, POM Wonderful, for using published literature to make illegal claims of unproven anti-disease benefits.[52][53][54] In May 2016, the US Federal Trade Commission declared that POM Wonderful cannot make health claims in its advertising, followed by a U.S. Supreme Court ruling that declined POM Wonderful’s request to review the court ruling, upholding the FTC decision.[55][5

The brand name “POM Wonderful” refers to the “Wonderful” cultigen of pomegranate which is grown in the San Joaquin Valley and dating from near the turn of the century.

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