(July 25) SAN DIEGO — Australian citrus shipments should be consistently available through the first week of October, according to importer DNE World Fruit Sales, Fort Pierce, Fla.

And while volume is lagging behind projection, David Mixon, vice president of DNE World Fruit Sales, said the navel crop, which hit stores in mid-July, is exceeding market expectations. DNE is the sole importer of Australian citrus, Mixon said.

Aside from Australian minneola tangelos, which arrived in late July, DNE expects its honey tangerines and ellendale mandarins to arrive by the first week of August.

“The season is going very well,” said Mixon. “Demand exceeds supplies at this point, and we anticipate that to remain for the balance of the season.

“The only thing that is negative is that production has been considerably less than original projections done in April.”

However, the quality and consistency of the fruit, which has propelled the imports’ growth by 30% in the U.S., remain excellent, Mixon said. Only the size of the fruit and the overall volume of this year’s harvest have been affected by drought conditions in the growing regions of Australia’s Murray River, he said.

“The navels have a very high brix, in the 10-to-12 range,” Mixon said. “And we know it will get as high as 12 to 14 later in the season.

“We have extremely good color, too, which is what attracts new and established consumers each year.”

This year’s navel crop should be about 1.2 million cartons, down from 1.5 million cartons last year, Mixon said. Navels, which represent 80% of the volume, will peak on size 88s.