Summer citrus imports beginning to enter North America will boast excellent quality, but sizes may be down slightly from 2009 in some producing countries.

South Africa is a case in point, where a very heavy fruit set is expected to produce good volume — as much as 14% greater than the 2009 deal.

That fruit set, however, may retard sizing, said William Kopke, vice president of William H. Kopke Jr. Inc., Lake Success, N.Y. Regardless the size, South Africa will produce ample summer supplies, he said.

The scenario in Australia is just the reverse. Quality and size are reported good, but volume will be down, importers said. The exception may be tangerines and specialty varieties.

“They will play a larger role in the Australian program this year,” said Stu Monaghan, national sales manager for DNE World Fruit Sales, Fort Pierce, Fla.

All citrus exports from Chile and Peru to North America are gaining influence, partly because of last year’s U.S. green light for navels from Chile. More U.S.-based importers have joined the Chilean navel fan club. Among them: Los Angeles-based Giumarra Cos. said Craig Uchizono, vice president of Southern Hemisphere.

Mexico remains North America’s main supplier of Persian limes.

Brooks Tropicals Inc. continues to work with a grower-shipper who grows specifically for the Homestead, Fla.-based importer, said Mary Ostlund, director of marketing. The limes cross the border at McAllen, Texas, a central point from which the fruit can go east or west, she said.

Mexico remains the source for Persian limes for Ephrata, Pa.-based Earth Source Trading Inc. As with Brooks Tropicals, Earth Source Trading brings the limes into the U.S. at McAllen. Earth Source then trucks them to Pennsylvania for packing and special handling, said Eric Gingrich, buying manager.

The south-of-the-border citrus products have not escaped the attention of some California grower-shipper-marketers.
Fresno, Calif.-based Crown Jewels Marketing LLC introduced a Mexican lime program this year. The early season limes began crossing at Hidalgo and Nogales the last week in May, said Atomic Torosian, managing co-partner.

For Paramount Citrus Association Inc., Delano, Calif., the key Mexican product is lemons from the nearly 6,000 acres the company purchased in 2008. Paramount will be marketing the eureka and lisbon lemon varieties, said Scott Owens, vice president of sales and marketing.

The fruit will cross into the U.S. at McAllen and then travel to California or to Paramount’s forward distribution facility in Chicago, he said.

LoBue Bros. Inc., Lindsay, Calif., is fetching some citrus, including lemons, from South America this summer, said Tom Wollenman, general manager.


Domestic summer citrus

Florida will have limited supplies of valencias and lemons during the summer, but the state’s fresh citrus harvest “winds down significantly by late June,” said Andrew Meadows, director of communications for Florida Citrus Mutual, Lakeland.

Valencias dominate California’s citrus production, but there are other varieties.

“We’ll have a very nice crop and a good supply of grapefruit through September,” said John Demshki, chief executive officer of Corona-College Heights Orange & Lemon Association, Riverside, Calif.

Star rubies represent the majority of the crop followed by flames and then summer rubies, he said.

The lemon program at Corona-Citrus Heights is year-round.

Sunkist Growers Inc., Sherman Oaks, Calif., will be shipping star rubies at least through July and perhaps into early August, said Claire Smith, director of corporate communications.

“We have good brix on the fruit, and the eating quality is very good,” she said.

Supplies of white grapefruit will be available from Sunkist until early August, Smith said, while shipping of Sunkist’s summer march rubies should begin in mid-July.

California is not yet out of navels.

Booth Ranches LLC, Orange Cove, Calif., will finish up its navel season about the third week in June, said Neil Galone, vice president of sales and marketing. Booth Ranches will ship valencias until mid-August, he said.

LoBue Bros. packed the last of its Washington navels May 21, but late lanes and barnfields would stretch the season for “a few more weeks,” Wollenman said.


Organic

Corona-College Heights continues as Southern California’s largest shipper of organic citrus.

“We will probably ship upwards of 750,000 cartons of all varieties of organics this year; it could be as many as 1 million,” Demshki said.

Organic valencias will be available through September. Organic navels also run the length of season, he said.

“We have a year-round organic lemon program and a near year-round organic grapefruit program,” Demshki said.