This year’s California navel orange crop, estimated at 93 million cartons, should be a bit larger than last year’s estimated 89 million cartons, but grower-shippers hope for a continuation of the prices they enjoyed last season.
As of early October, dates for the first shipments remained up in the air.
In an effort to provide end users with a better-eating piece of fruit than in past years, the state’s growers have agreed to implement what they’re calling the California Standard.
That means some growers may have to hold onto their fruit a bit longer than usual until it meets a specific maturity — and taste — standard.
“We’re never sure when we’ll get started,” said Neil Galone, vice president of sales and marketing for Booth Ranches LLC, Orange Cove, Calif.
“This year, it’s even more in question.”
Galone estimated that Booth Ranches will start harvesting the third or fourth week of October with limited availability for shipping the first week of November. The company expects “reasonable availability” by mid-November.
Cecelia Packing Corp. in Orange Cove also should start shipping navel oranges in late October, a bit earlier than last year.
“A lot of items have been a little earlier this year than they were last year, and navel oranges are no exception,” said Randy Jacobson, sales manager.
The company plans to ship navels until mid-May.
Volume at Cecilia Packing will be up slightly compared with last year, in line with the state’s overall orange crop.
Jacobson attributes the larger crop to good growing conditions.
He’s optimistic about fruit size, despite survey results from the California Agricultural Statistics Service indicating that, as of Sept. 1, fruit diameter was slightly smaller than the five-year average.
Despite increased competition from mandarins, prices have remained surprisingly steady on navels, he said.
“The crop size has not been overwhelming, so we’ve been able to manage the crop pretty well and do a fair job on the pricing.”
Galone agreed that navel prices have stayed steady or perhaps gotten stronger, even with good-size crops and the fact that “the mandarin varieties are compromising somewhat the demand for navels.”
On Oct. 2, the U.S. Department of Agriculture was reporting f.o.b. prices of mostly $18 for 15-kilogram cartons of Chilean navels and mostly $16-17 on size 64s.
South African navels were selling for mostly $18-20 for 15-kilogram containers of size 40s, 48s and 56s.