California mandarins came through a winter cold snap in good shape, and grower-shippers reported strong demand for high-quality fruit.

A couple of growers who market through Orange Cove, Calif.-based Mulholland Citrus suffered damage from the freeze, but for the most part, Mulholland’s mandarin deal was running smoothly in mid-February, said Fred Berry, marketing director.

“We’re in relatively decent shape in terms of being on track. We’re not really seeing too many weather-related issues,” Berry said. “That’s not to say that a few weeks down the road something couldn’t show up.”

Other than some issues with sizing, Bob Blakely, director of industry relations for Exeter-based California Citrus Mutual, also reported smooth sailing for most shippers.

“They’ve had a pretty good season so far,” he said. “They were concerned after the cold in January that they might see some damage, but we’re not hearing reports.”

Shippers are expecting a normal end to the mandarin season, about the end of April or beginning of May, Blakely said.

The color and eating quality of w. murcotts shipping in mid-February were excellent, and should continue to get better, Berry said.

With just a little Moroccan and Israeli fruit still in the marketplace, California should have the deal to itself, Berry said.

“Demand has been quite decent,” he said. “Prices are at levels where the fruit continues to move.” 

Despite having a bigger mandarin crop this year, shippers were moving through it well, Blakely said. Excellent quality is driving strong demand for both California mandarins and navels, with neither category stealing share from the other, he said.

Orange Cove, Calif.-based Booth Ranches began its one-month w. murcott deal in mid-February, said Tracy Jones, the company’s vice president of domestic sales.

This is the second year Booth Ranches has a short late-winter mandarin deal, Jones said. The deal could have been slightly longer, but growers waited out the cold to ensure they had excellent quality, Jones said.

Still, sizing was an issue.

“The 32s and larger, from what I’ve gathered, should sell pretty easily, but the 36s will be a challenge and smaller fruit will be a big challenge.”