SHERMAN OAKS, Calif. — For the second time this century, the California navel orange industry is on the verge of a near-record crop. Most of the state’s other citrus varieties also could see volume increases over the 2009-10 deal.
While grower-shippers said there will be promotable supplies of navels throughout the season, increased exports will likely keep supply and demand in balance.
“With the volume of fruit that is forecast, it’s going to be easily marketed in some of the most important markets that we have,” said Jim Cranney, president of the California Citrus Quality Council, Auburn.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s National Agricultural Statistics Service puts the upcoming navel crop at 93 million cartons.
The Citrus Quality Council has worked to minimize concerns over the discovery in Southern California and Arizona of the Asian citrus psyllid, the insect that can carry the fatal disease huanglongbing,
“We run a pre-clearance program with Australia, and we’re in the midst of working out some issues with them,” Cranney said.
Helping to keep the pests under control and to fend off international concerns is the federal/state/industry task force that has to date kept the psyllids out of the West’s major citrus growing regions.
“With the exception of two individual psyllids found more than a year ago in Imperial County, the findings have all occurred in low volume and in urban areas,” said Joel Nelsen, president of Exeter-based California Citrus Mutual. “It’s the industry and its partnership with the California Department of Food and Agriculture and the U.S. Department of Agriculture that’s made it possible.”
Yet another Quality Control Council success story is a new agreement reached during the summer between the U.S. and South Korea, a major export market.
“The new agreement eliminates many of the burdensome requirements for managing septoria citri,” Cranney said. “We’re now in a different kind of dynamic regarding regulation to ship to South Korea.”
Japan, another export market that’s fond of California citrus, also is on the council’s agenda, Cranney said. It is working with the Japanese government to establish maximum residue levels for post-harvest fungicides and to get those chemicals registered in Japan, he said.
Some of the council’s international agreements require at-home training.
“We’ve set up workshops for growers and packinghouses on just what specific requirements are necessary to minimize the possibility of problems when their fruit reaches foreign ports,” Cranney said.
Fears by some grower-shippers in recent years that ever-growing supplies of specialty citrus would cut into navel sales have for the most part not been realized.
“People are still going to buy navel oranges for the attributes they find in a navel and are not present in a clementine,” said Mike Wootton, senior vice president for corporate relations and administration for Sunkist Growers Inc., Sherman Oaks. “Clementine sales haven’t had a dramatic impact on navel consumption, but they’ve had an impact.”