Despite severe, persistent drought in California, there should be plenty of mandarins to meet Christmas demand.

“Lighter sets have been made up for by increased acreage,” said Bob Blakely, vice president of Exeter-based California Citrus Mutual.

“There should be adequate supplies in spite of the drought.”

Growers were shipping satsumas in November, but by December, clementines should be available in promotable volumes for Christmas, Blakely said. The season got off to an early start this year, he said.

California clementines are a big draw for Christmas, Blakely said. The only concern this season, he said, is small sizes.

On Nov. 18, the U.S. Department of Agriculture reported prices of $4.50-4.60 for 5-pound containers of 20-28s from Spain, up from $3.50 last year at the same time.



Even before Thanksgiving, Rosholt, Wis.-based Bushmans’ Inc. had heard from retailers interested in promoting potatoes for Christmas, and Mike Carter, the company’s chief executive officer, expects a lot of promotions for the holiday.

“Thanksgiving has been really great — we’ve moved a lot of volume and kept the price where we needed to — and we’re anticipating that Christmas will be just as strong.”

With cold weather descending on most of the nation in mid-November this year, Carter said it could be a season where adverse weather in California, Florida or another growing area could limit retailers’ ability to promote other items.

“We anticipate that will be the case this year. It’s one of those years where there are ample amounts of potatoes at a good price, and it’s easy and logical to put them on ad.”

Quality this season is outstanding and the size profile bigger than normal, which Carter said is a good problem to have.

“We haven’t had any storage issues, and the quality out of our shed is absolutely fantastic.”

The few storage problems in the industry Carter has heard about were focused more on processing spuds.

Ten-pound russet bags should once again be the dominant promotable option for retailers this Christmas, with a few customer opting for 15-pounders and others for 5-pounders.

“We’re seeing more ads for 5-pounders. They hit a lower price point.”

One of Bushmans’ retail customers plans to promote fingerlings for the holiday, but for everyone else, it’s russets, Carter said.

“It’s just a great promotable item. It’s something consumers are used to, and it reaches a broader demographic.”

The USDA reported prices of $9-9.50 for 50-pound cartons of russets 40-70s from Wisconsin, down from $11-13 last year.



Fresh-market cranberry volumes are in no danger of breaking any records this year, but Tomah, Wis.-based Habelman Bros. Co. expects to have enough to fill orders, said Bob Wilson, managing member of The Cranberry Network LLC, Wisconsin Rapids, Wis., which markets fruit grown by Habelman.

“In general, the cranberry crop is down from last year, but we’re in good shape.”

Habelman won’t likely pack as long as it did last season, Wilson said, but that shouldn’t stop the company from filling Christmas orders.

“We’re placing orders now, and the fruit quality is excellent.”

With the lower volumes and some quality issues elsewhere in the industry, however, Wilson recommends buyers get their cranberry plans for Christmas resolved sooner rather than later.

“We’ve seen a lot of last-minute-itis this year on ordering. I would recommend people get their orders for December promos in.”

This season the industry has battled diluted quality due to growers trying to divert processing cranberries because of processing prices, Wilson said.

Cranberries grown for the processing market are different than those grown for the fresh market, Wilson said.

Cartons of 24 12-ounce film bags were selling for $30 at the New England Produce Center, down from $34-35 last year.