The February shipment report was released on March 11, 2014, with a disappointing 149.3 million lbs. shipped, compared to 160 million lbs. last year.  Domestic shipments were the bright spot at 54.5 million lbs., well above last February’s record 43.2 million lbs.  But exports were at 94.9 million lbs., far below last year’s record 116.8 million lbs., and the 111.1 million lbs. shipped in February 2012.  Shipments to the U.S. and Europe continue to be strong, but not strong enough to offset the losses in China and India this month.  Total shipments for the crop year are at 1,219.3 million lbs., up 3.66% from last year at this time.


Crop receipts seem to have leveled off and are now at 1,990.3 million lbs., which should be pretty close to our final number.  That gives us a total supply of 2,247.8 million lbs., up 4.83% from last year.  Commitments are at 387.8 million lbs.  While still ahead of last year at this time, the decrease from last month reflects the slow sales month and leaves us with 640.7 million lbs. uncommitted, compared to 594.2 million lbs. at the end of last February.


With a good bloom, and some rains to take the edge off the drought, there have been more interested sellers than buyers these last few weeks and prices have softened accordingly.  While there does seem to be the potential for a big crop (2.2? 2.3?), the drought is far from over, and none of us really know how much it could affect the crop size.  Even with the recent rains, we are still in one of the driest winters on record, exacerbated by last calendar year being the driest ever recorded.  Additionally, the restraints that environmental requirements impose on the water system were not in place last time we experienced a drought this severe.  Some growers have been preparing for this eventuality by digging new, deeper wells where good ground water exists, but that is not possible for all orchards.


With all of the acrobatics going on to find a way to water orchards, I am surprised that prices have been soft.  But our California growers are some of the most resourceful people I know, and I can only assume that if they are willing to sell that they are optimistic about their own individual situation.  Time will tell if that is warranted, and if we get much more rain this spring.  In the meantime, it seems that March is shaping up to be a decent shipment month, with numbers equal to or greater than last year.  Stay tuned, because even Las Vegas doesn’t have a game more exciting than this one!