With its first year of exporting navels to the U.S. now in the past, Chile’s grower-shippers are finding more North American customers as the 2010 season approaches.

Earth Source Trading Inc., Ephrata, Pa., longtime importer of Chilean lemons and clementines, dabbled in Chilean navels in 2009. Earth Source will be more heavily involved this season.

“We’ll be expanding our Chilean navels to a nice-sized program,” said Eric Gingrich, buying manager. “The Chilean navels’ quality and color are very nice. They are a good addition to our citrus availability.”

Earth Source will bring the Chilean citrus into California and Philadelphia, he said. Most of the West Coast fruit will go to program business, while the Pennsylvania operation continues to do most of the company’s specialized packing, Gingrich said.

The first of the Chilean clementines imported by William H. Kopke Jr. Inc., Lake Success, N.Y., arrived in the U.S. the week of May 24, said William Kopke, vice president. The Chilean oranges will follow.

“We’re very pleased with the Chilean navels and clementines,” Kopke said. “The Chilean growers do a terrific job with citrus.”

Supplies of clementines will be available through September while the navels will continue to ship into October. The company is bringing the fruit into both coasts and offers a wide array of packaging options, Kopke said.

New for William H. Kopke this season is Sweetums, a new label for clementines. The easy-peelers will be available in 2-, 3- and 4-pound bags and 5-pound gift boxes, Kopke said.

The U.S. remains a key market for the clementines. Last season, it accounted for 83% of Chilean clementine and mandarin exports, according to Eurofruit Congress Southern Hemisphere. Europe was ranked second with just 7.9% with Canada a close third at 6.4%.

Giumarra Cos., Los Angeles, was on the sidelines for last year’s first Chilean navel imports.

“We didn’t participate the first year. We kind of sat back and looked at it,” said Craig Uchizono, vice president of Southern Hemisphere.

Convinced the industry was pleased with the navels, Giumarra Cos. will import the Chilean oranges along with lemons and, for the first time this season, also w. murcotts, Uchizono said.

The first navels are scheduled to arrive in mid-July, he said, with the first w. murcotts to reach Southern California in August.

Lemons will be the first Chilean citrus to arrive for Giumarra Cos. with early shipments set for the second half of June. Lemons will be available through August, Uchizono said.

With increased volumes from Chile and Peru, The Oppenheimer Group, Vancouver, British Columbia, will have a nice, even flow of citrus fruit through the summer and into the fall, said James Milne, category director of citrus.

Pivotal year

The second season of navel exports to the U.S. is going to be an important year for Chile in terms of establishing its position and being able to provide a consistent product year to year, Milne said. There are indications that the Chilean growers are doing just that.

Milne was in Chile in April to evaluate the fruit.

“I saw good size, and some of the brix-acid ratios were excellent at that stage,” he said. “The navels will eat well.”

Oppenheimer also will source clementines and lemons from Chile. The company expects its Chilean clementine supplies to begin ramping up in mid-June with w. murcotts coming in August, Milne said, and the lemon deal will follow the lead of last year’s excellent quality.

“Our volumes are definitely going to be up across the spectrum, either because we’ve gained new growers or we have natural incline in growth for the variety,” Milne said.

DNE World Fruit Sales, Fort Pierce, Fla., will supplement its Australian mandarin supplies with Chilean clementines, said Stu Monaghan, national sales manager.

The Chilean fruit is scheduled to begin arriving on both coasts in early June, he said, and will continue to arrive into October.