CUTLER, Calif. — The cara cara navel variety that originated in South America does not yet have the fan base of seedless mandarins, but its popularity is growing.


That more and more shoppers are choosing cara caras has not been lost on California grower-shippers.


New acreage and new trees will boost the 2010-11 cara cara volume at Sunkist Growers Inc., Sherman Oaks, by about 20% over last season’s packout, said Claire Smith, director of corporate communications.


The cooperative has unveiled two new displays — a bin and a pop-up — to help retailers attract more cara cara fans.


The growing popularity of the fruit also can be found offshore.


“There’s a good market for them,” said Andrew Felts, sales manager for Wileman & Elliott Inc., Cutler. “We started exporting them last year,”


Felts is not surprised that the Sunkist cooperative’s growers are producing a larger volume.


“I think that’s going to be pretty typical for the next couple of years because there are a lot of plantings that are coming into commercial harvest now,” he said.


Wileman Bros. & Elliott, which packs its fruit under the Mr. Sunshine label, is scheduled to begin shipping the navel variety in late December or early January, Felts said.


Sunkist customers could enjoy earlier deliveries.


Harvesting of the Sunkist cara caras is projected to start in mid-December, Smith said. Sizes should be good and are projected to peak at primarily at 72s followed by 56s and 88s, she said.


Sunkist expects to packout 70% fancy and 30% choice, Smith said.


Cara caras should be available into April.