The start of this fall’s Florida citrus deal should bring fewer navels and grapefruit and a slightly later grapefruit deal.

Florida to produce fewer navels and grapefruit

Courtesy IMG Citrus

Florida growers expect this season to bring smaller volumes of grapefruit and navel oranges.

Shippers expect normal volume of fallglo tangerines.

Florida navel volume, which normally starts in early October, is expected to be down by 25%, said Kevin Swords, Florida citrus sales manager for DNE World Fruit Sales, Fort Pierce, Fla.

In February, frost and subsequent drought conditions damaged blooms in some areas, Swords said.

Indian River region grapefruit is expected to begin a week to 10 days later than normal, said Matt Kastensmidt, national sales manager of IMG Citrus Inc., Vero Beach, Fla.

He said he thinks volume may decline by 15% following winter freeze damage and increasing incidence of melanose, a cosmetic disease that blemishes external appearance.

Kastensmidt said he wasn’t sure why grapefruit would run behind, but said spring dryness may have affected the fruit.

Florida growers normally begin shipping smaller-sized grapefruit in early and mid-October with more of the larger fruit, 27s and 32s, hitting in December and January.

Growers for Dundee Citrus Growers Association, Dundee. Fla., expect to begin limited pickings of fallglo tangerines Sept. 14. The association sells fruit through Diversified Citrus Marketing, Lake Hamilton, Fla.

Promotable volume won’t hit until the first of October, said Al Finch, Diversified’s vice president of sales and marketing.

Finch said higher than normal summer clementine pricing should whet retailer appetites for Florida tangerines.

“With the high pricing that has been on the imported citrus program, the retail chains are really waiting to start in Florida so they can try to turn around some sales in the citrus category,” he said. “It seems the retailers really want to get out there and promote Florida citrus for the first half of the season. The higher rings on items are just not selling at the shelf level.”

Fallglo tangerines normally run through the end of October when the sunburst variety begins.

An expected early California start should have Florida experiencing a shorter than normal October navel marketing window Oct. 6-24, Swords said.  California navel volume, which usually begins in early November, isn’t expected to start until Oct. 24, he said.

“Nationwide, retailers tend to get some extra business (from Florida) looking for value before they switch to California,” Swords said.

He said 4-pound bags of navels should make for strong promotions going into Thanksgiving while 8-pound bags should be the norm for December promotions.

DNE, which expects to ship 4.6 million-equivalent cartons of Florida citrus this season — similar to last season’s volume — plans to begin ambersweet and hamlin orange harvest — fresh oranges grown for consumer or retail juicing  — in late October.

While Dundee’s navels this past season ran well into January, Finch said this year’s harvest should end by Christmas.

Because of higher availability of imported fruit, Swords characterized summer citrus prices as weaker than normal. However, he said he expects prices to be on the high end going into October.

According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, South African clementines arriving in Philadelphia in early September sold for $28-30 for flat cartons of 15 2-pound mesh bags.

On oranges, the USDA reported 7/10-bushel cartons of valencias from California’s southern and central districts at $14.48-16.50 for 48-56s and $13.48-15.50 for 72s.

On grapefruit,  7/10-bushel cartons of ruby reds from the same California growing regions sold for $13.98-15.98 for 27s and $12.48-14.50 for 32s.

Last season, 4/5 bushel cartons of Florida fallglo tangerines in late September in Chicago sold for $28-30 for 64s and $26-28 for 80s.

Navels during the same time frame and in the same city sold for $18-20 for 64s and 100s and $20-22 for 80s.

On red grapefruit, 4/5 bushel cartons in early October sold for $27 for 23s and 27s and $23-25 for 32s.

With the predicted smaller crop, Kastensmidt said he expects Florida grapefruit prices to be a little higher than last year’s.

“The season is looking very good,” he said Aug. 31. “We are excited to get started. The crops and sizing look well.”

IMG plans to pack 1.9 million equivalent cartons of all citrus this season, up from 1.72 million cartons last season.

Honey tangerines, which start in January, are expected to be at much higher volume than last season, Swords said.