From long-term drought to currency exchange problems, the Australian fresh citrus industry has endured more than its share of challenges over the past decade.

The 2010 citrus deal from down under is projected to be smaller than the 2009 crop, grower-shippers said, but they are pleased with the quality.

While navels will remain the No. 1 citrus variety shipped to North America, the importance of other varieties is on the increase.

“The tangerines and specialty varieties are going to play a larger role in the Australian program this year,” said Stu Monaghan, national sales manager for DNE World Fruit Sales, Ft. Pierce, Fla.

The company is anticipating about 35,000 cartons of blood oranges and 15,000 cartons of cara caras, he said. The easy-peel varieties imported by DNE World Fruit will be up about 75,000 cartons over 2009, Monaghan said.

Fallglo tangerines launched the citrus import season for DNE World Fruit with early arrivals hitting the U.S. the week of May 31.

Fallglo supplies will continue through June, Monaghan said, just about the time the first of the daisy variety are reaching North America. They will be available through August and will be followed by ellendales, he said.

The daisy variety will represent the lion’s share of the big jump in this year’s specialty varieties.

“We’ll have about 100,000 cartons of (the) daisy (variety) alone,” Monaghan said.

The DNE World Fruit’s Australian navels are scheduled to arrive on the West Coast the last week in June. The anticipated navel volume is 1.2 million cartons.

“That’s down from 1.6 million cartons last year, but they are bigger and the quality is very good,” Monaghan said. “We’re going to have very large fruit from Australia this year.”

One major player missing from the list of North American importers this season is The Oppenheimer Group, Vancouver, British Columbia.

“We’re taking a little breather from the Australian situation and keeping an eye on an industry that’s gone through some difficult times,” said James Milne, category director of citrus.

Oppenheimer expects the Australian citrus industry “to come roaring back probably next year and beyond,” he said.

When that happens, The Oppenheimer Group will return.

“We expect to be back in the game in 2011,” Milne said.

Giumarra Cos., Los Angeles, has no plans to source Australian citrus this season, but it will import lemons from the country’s down under neighbor, New Zealand, said Tom Richardson, general manager of Giumarra of Wenatchee.

The company has elected to import only meyer lemons and to drop the yenben variety, Richardson said. Early supplies of the meyer lemons are scheduled arrive in California in late June, he said.

Prices of Australian citrus may have gotten a boost earlier this year when the European Union became the last member of the global community to recognize the country’s mainland as being free from citrus canker.

The declaration eliminates costly chemical treatments before shipping.