Florida citrus leaders have temporarily amended the state’s acid quality standards to allow for more shipments of navels that have lower acid levels.

Florida Citrus Commission adjusts orange quality standards

The season’s unusually warm and dry growing season has been producing navel oranges with lower anhydrous citric acid levels.

In a Nov. 10 emergency conference call, the Florida Citrus Commission, which oversees the Lakeland-based Florida Department of Citrus, voted to adjust the rules allowing reduction of navel minimum acid levels from .4% to .36%.

The Lakeland-based Florida Citrus Packers Inc. requested the expedited rule change.

In what he called an educated guess, Richard Kinney, Florida Citrus Packers’ executive vice president, said as much as a third of the state’s navel volume could be shipping with lower acid levels. He said other oranges are also affected but to a much lower degree.

“If some growers can’t meet the minimum acid standard, their fruit would be without value,” Kinney said. “We have a narrow window to ship this fruit. You can’t tell the difference between a .40 acid and a .36 acid navel. 10% is not a big deal but it’s certainly a big deal for the growers. It’s a good quality piece of fruit and will remain so, but that little bit of difference will benefit growers.”

Saying they couldn’t exempt only navels, commissioners unanimously approved relaxing the rules for all Florida oranges for 90 days. The rules would be automatically reset next season.

Florida’s navel shipments normally run through January before late season valencias begin production.