Estimates differ on the size of this summer’s California valencia orange crop.

California Agricultural Statistic Services projected 26 million cartons of valencias, down from last year’s 28 million. But some grower-shippers say volume will increase.

“The industry is projecting a 5% to 7% increase in crop volume,” said Claire Smith, director of corporate communications for Sunkist Growers, Sherman Oaks, Calif.

“The larger volume means good promotable volumes will be available for retailers.”

But fruit size is smaller this year on valencias.

“A lot of shippers are picking the larger fruit for export,” said Paul Story, director of grower services for Exeter-based California Citrus Mutual.

“They’ll come back later, hope for growth and finish it for either fresh or juice.”

“Right now the valencias are peaking on size 113, followed by 138,” Tom Wollenman, general manager of Lindsay, Calif.-based LoBue Bros., said May 13.

“At the beginning of the season normally you want a bigger piece of fruit. But once you get into August the trade goes into the smaller fruit, so that size structure will work to our advantage once we get there.”

Most of the domestic action on valencias runs from late June or early July into October. But the orange got some interest early on from buyers seeking out the smaller sizes.

“So far it’s been retailers who are looking for a low-price alternative to the late navels,” Neil Galone, vice president of sales and marketing at Orange Cove, Calif.-based Booth Ranches, said in early May.

“The late navels have a large size, mostly 72, very few 113s and 138s, which are great bagging sizes. To get those smaller, less expensive sizes they have to move to valencias.”

As Galone saw it, a bigger picture was getting lost in the hunt for bargains.

“It’s kind of a shame, because California valencias are already testing at 12-plus so the flavor and juice are fantastic,” he said.

Sunkist’s summer ruby grapefruit crop will be about 20% larger than last year, Smith said. She also forecast gains of 15% to 20% for the star ruby.

The star ruby is shipping through mid-August, Smith said, and quality is excellent. Sizes will peak at 36-32-40.

The ruby deal is expected to start around mid-July and ship into October. Sizes are projected to peak at 36-40-32, she said.

Sunkist markets limes from Mexico, but there is no projection yet on summer volume. The company also expects to handle some offshore volumes from South Africa and Chile into the U.S. and from Australia into Canada.