The effects of devastating December freezes on late-season California navels may not be as severe as first thought.

As growers worked through blocks hit hard by the freezes in the second half of April, the elimination rate was about 30%, said Bob Blakely, director of industry relations for Exeter-based California Citrus Mutual.

But that rate was lower than expected.

“We’re still seeing pretty good fruit going into the market,” Blakely said. “Supplies haven’t dried up as much as we’d anticipated.”

Most packinghouses should wind down their navel deals in May, with a few expected to ship into early June, Blakely said.

Orange Cove, Calif.-based Booth Ranches LLC expects to harvest navels through May, said Tracy Jones, the company’s vice president of domestic sales.

“Quality has remained consistent, and the navels are eating very good,” Jones said. “We’ve had the ability to work through freeze-damaged fruit for months, allowing us to stay true to our original harvesting plan.”

Sherman Oaks, Calif.-based Sunkist Growers wrapped up its cara cara navel shipments the week of April 21, but the company was still shipping regular navels and expected to have late-season navels through early June, said Joan Wickham, manager of advertising and public relations.

“We’ve seen strong demand in domestic and export markets,” she said.

Navel sizes for Booth Ranches are peaking on 72s, followed by 56s and 88s in about equal amounts, Jones said.

Movement dipped during the Easter pull, Jones said, but it picked up quickly thereafter.

“The demand on navels has been steady,” she said.

On April 29, the U.S. Department of Agriculture reported prices of $18.80-21.90 for 7/10-bushel cartons of navels 48-56s from California, up from $16.75-17.80 last year at the same time.

Valencia season kicks off

Booth Ranches started valencia harvest in April and expects to ship valencias through October, Jones said. Due to warm spring weather, re-greening could be an issue earlier than the company would like, but overall, Jones expects a good year for valencias.

“The fruit has great color and is eating very good,” she said.

Valencias will likely peak on 88s, followed by 113s this season, Jones said.

Wickham also expects a good year for valencias.

“Valencia demand is building in both domestic and export markets, with a full range of sizes available,” she said.

Export sales of California valencias already were strong in April, but most domestic shipments would wait until the navel deal wound down, Blakely said.