As the summer citrus season unfolds, California navel oranges are winding down, valencias are ramping up and the lemon crop is back to normal following a freeze two years ago.
“We’re selling regular and late navels right now and probably will continue to do so through May and maybe into mid-June,” said Claire Smith, director of corporate communications for Sherman Oaks, Calif.-based Sunkist Growers Inc., on April 9.
“They’re holding up well,” she said.
This year’s California navel orange crop should hover around 67 million cartons, according to Exeter-based California Citrus Mutual — down from 98 million cartons in 2007-08.
Booth Ranches LLC, Orange Cove, Calif., should finish its navel crop by the end of May, said Neil Galone, vice president of sales and marketing.
Although volume of navels was down this year, sizing was up and “eating quality is excellent,” he said.
Meanwhile, limited supplies of valencias started shipping to export destinations in late March, Smith said.
“As navels wind down, valencias will gear up,” she said.
The valencia crop is off about 6% from last year, totaling about 30 million cartons from District 1 in Central California and District 2 in the southern coastal region, she said.
“It’s a very good quality crop,” she said. “It’s already eating very well, we’re going to have a good supply of them, and the sizing is what everybody likes — they’re going to peak on 88s, 113s and 72s.”
Pricewise, “they’ll make a good value for the summer,” she said.
Booth Ranches expects a short valencia crop, Galone said.
The company started valencias around March 12 with good export demand.
“We’re taking advantage of that,” he said.
Domestic demand for valencias doesn’t usually pick up until the navels have wound down, he said. For Booth Ranches, that will be the end of May.
Valencias traditionally come on at the same price level as navels, he said, but the influx of good-quality, reasonably priced imported navels “has taken the edge off the valencia interest.”
Valencias were showing excellent color and quality, but were not as large as this season’s unusually hefty navels, he said.
Galone expects the company’s valencia crop to be finished by mid-July or the end of July at the latest.
Wildwood Produce Sales Inc., Kingsburg, Calif., was scheduled to start valencia shipments in late April, said Alex Marriott, sales manager.
“They already look really nice,” he said early in the month. “We’re just waiting for them to get a little bit better taste.”
Growing conditions were favorable, and he expected sizes to peak on 70s to 88s.
The company should have valencias until September.
Lemon sales seem to be souring because of the economic downturn.
Demand for lemons is down as much as 40% compared to normal, Smith said.
Lemons are suffering because a large part of the crop typically goes to foodservice, where, in many cases, business has fallen off significantly, she said.
Most summer lemons come from the coastal region, and the industry expects to produce up to 26 million cartons, according to California Citrus Mutual, which is back to normal production following a freeze in January 2007.
Quality and size are good, but demand should remain low, Smith said.
“There is going to be plenty of fruit available,” she said.
Central Valley lemons should be available from Wildwood Produce Sales until mid-May, Marriott said. Then the deal will move to the coastal region for the summer.
Sizes from the valley are in the 140-150 range, but coastal lemons should peak on 95s and 115s, he said.