The latest U.S. Department of Agriculture Florida citrus report shows declines in the size of the orange crop, a small increase in tangerine production and grapefruit with record-small fruit size.

Florida citrus report shows smaller grapefruit size

Doug Ohlemeier

Richard Miller, domestic sales manager of Premier Citrus Packers Inc., Vero Beach, Fla., examines some red graperfruit running the packing line in late January.
The latest USDA Florida citrus report shows the state producing the smallest grapefruit sizings in history.

However, surveyors note that this year’s red grapefruit crop is bringing abnormally smaller sizes.

“White grapefruit final indications show droppage is slightly above average while average fruit size is the smallest on record,” the USDA reported Feb. 9. “Colored grapefruit final indications show size is the smallest on record while droppage is below average.”

Richard Miller, domestic sales manager of Premier Citrus Packers Inc., Vero Beach, Fla., said 75% of the grapefruit packings by Indian River region packinghouses have been on the smaller 40s, 48s and 56s, compared to the larger 23s, 27s, 32s and 36s that on a normal year would account for a larger proportion of the packout.

“You can see that based on the f.o.b. pricing,” Miller said Feb. 9. “Your big sizes are still getting $14-16 while the smaller ones are getting $6-7.”

According to the report, early and midseason orange varieties and valencias each declined by 1 million equivalent cartons, while early tangerines, which ship in the fall, increased by 200,000 cartons.

Florida is expected to ship 138 million boxes of oranges this season, down from the 140 million cartons estimated in the January report. Florida’s oranges ship primarily to processors.

Mike Sparks, executive vice president and chief executive officer of Lakeland-based Florida Citrus Mutual, said in a news release that December freezes caused smaller fruit sizes.