October 5, 2013

Pomegranate Juice Market
Nearly Nonexistent 

By Patrick Cavanaugh, Editor
“The pomegranate for juice market is upside-down. It’s ugly,” said Mark Van Klaveren, a Madera County farmer. “It’s been that way since last year.”

“For fresh pomegranates, there is some movement; but as far as the market for juice—it is pretty quiet,” he said

“The crushing company I worked with in the past said they would contact me at harvest time. So far, I haven’t heard anything from them; of course, it was the same thing last year,” Van Klaveren remarked. “They are not paying enough to really get too excited about.

“Stiebs, in Madera, is one of the companies in the area,” Van Klaveren said. Stiebs has been an industrial ingredient pomegranate processor for more than forty years.

Van Klaveren commented, “We’re not paying labor for pomegranate harvesting yet. When we are done with almonds, we’ll shift gears and start to harvest pomegranates. While we get the almonds, we’ll keep the pomegranates on the trees. I have guys on my crew and I need to keep them busy, and that’s one way to keep them busy.”

“We do not grow on contract; we use open market. I set my price based on last year’s price and the market price. It pays the labor to pick and pack.”
Mike Thomas is a field rep for Steibs. He noted that he has heard that Paramount Farms, which owns the POM Wonderful brand of juice, and the industry leader in processed product and acreage, had excess juice last year and the price has dropped significantly.

In 2002 Stewart and Lynda Resnick started POM Wonderful, and grocery stores around the world stocked the unique bottle of 100 percent pomegranate juice. At the same time, with the help of the Resnick’s deep pockets and talented staff promoted the health benefits of pomegranates, and sure enough there was dramatic increased demand for pomegranates to be planted.  (Editor’s note: Paramount was contacted and no calls were return as of late Friday afternoon.)

With the crop fetching $400 a ton for juice, more central valley acreage was planted for the relatively low input crop (accept for aphids, leaf-footed plant bug, requiring one or two sprays.)  Yields were as much as 12 tons per acre.

Sure enough, after about seven good years, there was a huge excess of pomegranate juice in stainless steel tanks a Paramount’s Crush Facility in the Fresno County town of Del Rey. It was reported that part of the excess was dumped.

“Last year, the $400 price dropped to $75 and this year there is virtually no market for pomegranates for juice. In fact there has been no price announced,” said Thomas. “Again, there is limited market for fresh product. Needless to say, there will be a lot of crop left hanging on trees.”

About 4,500 acres were pulled last year. More is sure to be pulled this year. It would be nice if Food Banks could get access to the fruit.