DUNDEE, Fla. — The eating quality of Florida navels is improving as the fruit is benefitting from a better spring bloom.

Unlike last season, when an erratic spring brought multiple blooms, this year’s consistent bloom should help with quality and movement, grower-shippers report.

Grower-shippers began harvesting in early October, as usual, and typically pack through Christmas.

Al Finch, president of Florida Classic Growers, the marketing arm of the Dundee Citrus Growers Association, said buyers should expect promotable volume for bagged navels in November and December.

“The overall external appearance as well as the internal qualities of the fruit appear very good,” Finch said in mid-November.

“We have had some good promotions on bagged navels and look to continue the momentum.”

IMG Citrus Inc., Vero Beach, started in mid- to late October and Matt Reel, director of sales, characterized quality as high.

He said some early November colder weather helped improve color and internal quality.

“The fruit is getting better,” he said in mid-November. “We have a high quality and high flavor fruit this year. Typically, Florida fruit sees more scarring and discoloration, but internally, as far as eating quality goes, they’re second to none.”

Early season demand was sluggish, said Kevin Swords, Florida citrus sales manager for DNE World Fruit Sales, Fort Pierce.

Though shippers typically push the fruit earlier in October, this year, most waited to allow the navels to mature to better color and higher packouts before they started promoting them later in October, he said.

“Demand has been so-so but we are getting to that period where we’re offering more consistent volume ... and are seeing some ads in place,” Swords said.

“They are really popping the color in the field and the fruit is eating very well. We have a nice-colored and good-eating navel.”

The fruit looks good and the harvest is bringing better flavor than last season, said Russell Kiger, sales manager of DLF International Inc., Vero Beach.

In early November, Kiger said prices stabilized to more normal rates and quoted $18 for 56-80s for 4/5-bushel cartons of U.S. 1 Florida navels.

Kiger said pricing leveled to a more reasonable market and in mid-November entered the normal pricing range.

The Florida citrus industry does not provide the U.S. Department of Agriculture with f.o.b. prices.

In mid-November, the USDA reported these prices for 7/10-bushel cartons of navels from the lower Rio Grande Valley of Texas: $14.35-14.95 for 56s, 64s and 72s; $14.25-15.98 for 88s; and $12.35-14.50 for 113s and 138s.

 

Early- and mid-seasons

Ambersweets, among the season’s first juice oranges, began in October and are followed by hamlins and midsweets, which run through the end of the year.

The pineapple variety of juice oranges typically begin in early to mid-December and harvest through early February.

“They look great,” IMG’s Reel said in mid-November. “We have customers that can’t wait to get started on them.”

In early November, pineapple oranges were smaller in size but Swords said he expects sizings to improve.

Mid-seasons temples typically start in mid-January, with production running for four weeks.

Buyers should expect promotable volume for the 3-pound bags, Finch said.

Valencias

Valencias, Florida’s late season orange, usually start in late February and harvest through early June.

Last year, Dundee finished a little earlier than in past seasons and overall experienced a strong valencia program, Finch said.

Florida Classic plans to ship through July through its storage program, he said.

IMG also offers summer storage and plans to begin harvesting in early February.

“The valencia crop is a lot smaller than it used to be,” Reel said. “We seem to be getting more demand for Florida juice oranges.”

Last season was favorable in quality, movement and pricing and Swords said growers hope for similar momentum this season.

In early November, Steve Kiral, fresh fruit sales manager for Clermont-based Uncle Matt’s Organic Inc., said he was seeing a lot of fruit on the trees.

“I think this season will be on par with last season,” Kiral said.

“If we can have a steady and consistent season as last year, although it was down last year, we will be fortunate. We did have some loss in crop size last season and we’re trying to make sure it’s not a trend that continues.”