ORANGE COVE, Calif. — It appears that most of California’s so-called zipper fruit will not follow the lead of “big brother” navel to larger volumes for the 2010-11 season, grower-shippers say.
For satsumas, the season opener among specialty citrus, the crop may be only slightly above year-ago production, said Fred Berry, marketing director for Mulholland Citrus. The Mulholland clementine crop is projected to be on a par with last season, he said.
“We’re scheduled to start packing satsumas about Oct. 25,” Berry said. “The clementine season should begin in mid-November.”
The final act in Mulholland’s specialty season is the w. murcott variety. Packing of the murcotts is scheduled to begin in late January, Berry said.
“Overall, the murcotts probably have a lighter set, which should translate to bigger sizes,” he said. “More trees are coming into production, so the murcott end is probably going to be a bit stronger.”
The weather failed to cooperate with Valhalla Sales & Marketing Co., Visalia.
The company had planned to launch its satsumas, if possible, in early October, said Steve Nelsen, co-owner.
“If I’m fortunate enough, I’ll pick the last week in October, and I’ll have satsumas available the first week in November,” he said.
Valhalla will follow with clementines and murcotts, which Nelsen said should be available through late March.
The satsuma crop for Sherman Oaks-based Sunkist Growers Inc. will be at about the same volume as 2009-10, said Claire Smith, director of corporate communications.
“We’ll have satsumas until about Christmas,” she said.
December is when Sunkist growers expect to begin ramping up the clementine harvest, and volume should rise this season, Smith said. However, the cooperative’s fairchild volume will be down slightly as will be the royal mandarin crop.
“The clementine harvest will continue until near the end of January, when we’ll start picking the w murcotts,” Smith said.
Packing of the murcotts and the royal mandarins should continue through February, she said.
Two other of Sunkist’s mandarin crops, shasta gold and gold nugget, could be available into April.
The gold nugget volume is projected to be up slightly over last year, but the shasta gold crop is expected to be up about 40%, Smith said.
Exeter-based Sequoia Orange Co. is scheduled to begin picking and packing melo golds about the end of November, said Ross Bailey, sales manager. Sequoia, which does its own growing, packing and marketing, also produces mandarins, he said.
Melo gold is a cross between a white grapefruit and a pomelo. Sunkist also will offer the variety with volume close to last season’s level, Smith said.
The availability of pomelos from Sunkist will be down slightly from last year, Smith said. Shipping is scheduled to begin in December and continue at least through February, she said.
Mulholland, which concentrates on California grown specialty citrus, figures to offer the satsuma/clementine/w. murcott mix for the next few years, Berry said. The company’s three-variety program makes specialty citrus available to Mulholland customers from mid-October to mid-May, he said, and with new acreage in the ground it will continue to grow over the next few years.
“Of the new varieties that recently became available, we’re not excited enough to say that it’s something that would replace what’s already there,” Berry said.
That does not mean Mulholland plans never to expand its inventory.
“We always have our eyes and ears open,” Berry said.
Mulholland owns and operates a nursery where it conducts experiments with varieties from around the world, he said. The company’s criteria for new varieties are straightforward.
“What’s going to promote the industry in terms of good eating fruit with good shelf life, good appearance and that the consumer’s going to latch onto and have a good experience with,” Berry said. “That’s what we’re looking for.”