DUNDEE, Fla. — Buyers should expect Florida to open its citrus season with a later start for volume.

Later starts characterize Florida citrus season

Doug Ohlemeier

Al Finch (left), vice president of sales and marketing for Diversified Citrus Marketing, Lake Hamilton, Fla., the marketing arm of the Dundee Citrus Growers Association, and Adam Pate, president of Dundee’s Statewide Harvesting and Hauling, examine a grove of navel oranges in mid-September. Buyers should expect season volume on navels, tangerines and grapefruit to start up to two weeks later than normal.

Though growers plan to pack some smaller amounts of navels and fallglo tangerines in late September, buyers shouldn’t anticipate seeing any appreciable volume of Florida oranges and tangerines until mid-October with red grapefruit volume hitting in mid- to late October, said David Mixon, senior vice president and chief marketing officer of Seald Sweet International, Vero Beach.

While growers last season began harvesting in mid-September, Mixon said Florida citrus harvesting wasn’t expected to get going in earnest until mid-October with only limited volume hitting in late September and early October.

He attributed the later deal to a later and longer spring bloom, which was affected by last season’s abnormally cold weather. Such growing conditions traditionally create tardy fall season starts, Mixon said.

“So far, the quality is excellent,” Mixon said on Sept. 14. “We have had great reports on every variety that we have looked at to date. We are seeing some very good quality on the trees. There is some wind scar, but in general, we are hearing that this season is going to be as good if not a little better than last year. Most of the crops are showing some really good opportunities for this coming year.”

Growers for Diversified Citrus Marketing, Lake Hamilton, the marketing arm of the Dundee Citrus Growers Association, began harvesting navels from central and south Florida groves on Sept. 14.

Al Finch, Diversified’s vice president of sales and marketing, said growers experienced a successful season last year, which ended in June, and said the coming season should bring a clean crop with high quality fruit.

He said he’s hearing strong retail interest in navels, which ship primarily fresh.

“The major chains are pushing navels in October before California gets cranked up during the first of November,” Finch said. “Retailers are really looking forward to the start of the Florida season. They found success with the summer import season and want to continue the momentum going forward. Florida really fills that gap in October between the finishing of the imported deal and the start of California.”

Finch said he expects a strong push on bagged navels and fallglo tangerines.

Mixon called the summer offshore citrus deal strong and said imported citrus from South Africa, Chile and Peru was garnering prices similar to last year’s.

He cited Chilean and South African oranges selling in the low to mid $20s with Peruvian minneola tangelos at $14-16.

Later starts characterize Florida citrus season

Doug Ohlemeier

Shippers say they expect promotable volume of Florida citrus like these navels photographed in mid-September Buyers to start a couple of weeks later than normal.

In mid-September, the U.S. Department of Agriculture reported these prices for 15-kilogram containers of navels from South Africa arriving in the Philadelphia area: 40-48s $24-26, 56s, $24, 64s, $24, 72s $20-22, 88s $18-21.

Last year in late September, the USDA reported these prices: 48-56s $20-24, 64-72s $20-22, 80-88s $18-20.

Early season estimates have Florida fresh packers expecting to pack 2.2 million equivalent boxes of navels, slightly more than last season, 5.5 million cartons of red grapefruit, down from 2010, and 2.3 million cartons of fallglo tangerines, similar to last season’s, Finch said.

The first official USDA estimate of Florida’s citrus crop is scheduled for Oct. 8.