There's a lack of prunes in world markets. It's the first time in years--there's been a glut for a long time--and prices are moving to reflect the situation.
"We have seen an uptick in prices ... and we anticipate another in 2013 with the short crop," said Pete Righero, farm manager at B.E. Giovannetti & Sons, a prune producer in Sutter County, Calif.
Yuba City prune farmer Ragbir Atwal said pricing for products like peaches and nuts has been good in recent years, with the exception of prunes, which "kind of got left out."
The National Agricultural Statistics Service estimates the 2013 California crop will be 105,000 tons, a reduction of 24 percent from last year, which is very likely to push prices up.
"It's starting to come back into balance. We're hopeful our competitors do a better job of marketing and promotion, so we can see positive growth," said Greg Thompson, president of the Prune Bargaining Association in Yuba City. "We think the general trend is positive; we've turned a corner." He added that farmers in South America, France and the Sacramento Valley have removed orchards in recent years.
In addition to the already reduced supply this year, a number of trees have been removed, which has cut volumes by 7 percent.
One of the problems has been an increased production in South American, where growers saw the potential of an expanding market. However, the produce was not successfully marketed and failed to take the world by storm.
"Now we're seeing a correction," Thompson said. "South America and France have a short supply."
Prices paid to California growers for dried prunes from the 2012 prune crop haven't been finalized yet, Thompson said. However, the recommended top price for the largest-sized prunes was $1,400 per ton.