The effects of a drought in northern Chile slowed arrivals of citrus commodities in the U.S.

“The volume is peaking a little later than normal,” said Paul Huckabay, Western citrus sales manager for Duda Farm Fresh Foods, Oviedo, Fla.

“As far as clementines and navels, the season is definitely starting off a couple weeks late in Chile.”

Duda expected to see its first Chilean clementines in the first week of June.

“Our volume won’t hit in good numbers until mid-June on clementines and mid-July on navels,” Huckabay said.

The bulk of the clementines will arrive by mid-August, said James Milne, citrus category director and business development director for Vancouver, British Columbia-based The Oppenheimer Group.

“There are going to be questions whether the drought limits clementine volumes,” he said May 10.

Soon after that, however, a report from the Sonoma, Calif.-based Chilean Fresh Fruit Association forecast a 5% boost in clementine and mandarin exports to 43,020 tons.

That was welcome news for clementines. They’re the fastest growing citrus commodity, according to David Mixon, senior vice president and chief marketing officer for Vero Beach, Fla.-based Seald Sweet International.

Ninety percent of Chilean clementine and mandarin exports end up in the U.S.

Tom Tjerandsen, the association’s managing director for North America, said early opportunities awaited Chilean imports to the U.S.

“Australia’s late and short and domestic supplies are exhausting rapidly,” he said.

“With California winding down it’s led to a wide-open window for Chile, particularly for clementines.”

Australia has been challenged by a drought of its own, as well as exchange rate and input cost issues.

When peak season for clementines passes, w. murcott mandarins will pick up the slack, said Milne.

Plantings of the w. murcott variety — also known as afourer — have been on the increase, according to the Chilean association.

Mandarins and clementines account for 3,700 planted hectares in Chile, compared to 7,900 for oranges and 7,600 for lemons.

Total production of Chilean citrus is forecast to rise 1.95% this year to 522,000 tons, with 142,226 tons going to export, according to numbers from the Chilean association and the Southern Hemisphere Association of Fresh Fruit Exporters.

Orange exports were forecast to be up 15%.

“Sizing on navels will be smaller, with a peak on 72s and 88s out of Chile,” Mixon said.

“It’s a little smaller there. We think they had a bigger drought concern than South Africa had. It’s a good crop but they’re just smaller.”

Chile sends 62% of its orange exports to the U.S.

Chilean lemon exports are expected to fall sharply, down 19% to 36,962 tons. It was the commodity hurt most by dry weather.

“They also have a strong domestic market for lemons right now,” Huckabay said.

“We probably won’t see large amounts coming into the U.S.”

“Lemons are a short crop out of Chile,” Mixon said.

“A lot that would have gone import has gone domestic. It might have to do with other production areas globally.”

The U.S. typically gets 37% of Chile’s lemon exports.