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» September 5, 2008 «
State and federal officials outlined plans to cope with drought conditions at a Sacramento news conference Thursday. They said they are planning for the worst, but hoping for the best. Reporters learned the state water project would tell the groups it serves they would get only 10 to 15 percent of their water allocations next year. This is only the second time the forecast has been that low. Officials also have created a water bank to match willing sellers and buyers.
Farmers had anticipated a heavy walnut crop. Now a government forecast issued Thursday predicts a harvest of 375,000 tons, a 15 percent increase from last year. The forecast says the average nut set--or number of nuts per tree--is slightly more than 1,400. The set for the Hartley and Serr varieties is a little lighter than last year, while the Chandler is about a third heavier. California leads the nation in walnut production. Full harvest is expected to be under way in a couple weeks.
Fresh fig lovers may soon feel the impact of California's water shortage. Fig trees must be watered to keep producing fruit. Once farmers exhaust their water allocation, the trees will stop producing. One farm family usually sells fresh figs through October, but this year may run out of water in September. California leads the nation in fig production, with 99 percent of the total. Figs produced nearly $25 million in gross revenue in 2006.
The supermarket produce department remains a popular spot. According to a consulting firm called the Perishables Group, sales in produce departments are up nearly 4 percent, with vegetables accounting for 48 percent and fruits 44 percent of the increase. Fruit sales grew at a faster pace, led in part by interest in organic and exotic fruits. Empty nest and senior couples buy the most produce, followed by families with older children.Top