VERO BEACH, Fla. — After last year’s short season, Florida grapefruit grower-shippers hope for a more normal season.
Growers began harvesting in light volume in late September.
Early in the deal, growers experienced stronger demand than normal as California finished early and Texas hadn’t started.
Volume stepped up to full volume by mid- to late October, when shippers began bag promotions for retail promotions, said Dave Brocksmith, Florida program manager for Seald Sweet International.
“So far, the crop looks good,” he said. “I think we have better exterior quality than last year. It’s better looking, and we have a little lower acid on the fruit this year, which may take away some of the eating quality but still be very good across the board for exterior as well as interior qualities.”
DNE World Fruit Sales, Fort Pierce, began harvesting in early October.
Kevin Swords, Florida citrus sales manager, said he expects the season to mirror the 2010-11 season.
“Other than the first initial spot pick, the grapefruit is more on the smaller size and more to the mediums,” he said in late October. “There is some larger fruit around early but it has been short-lived.
“As everyone gets spot picked, and they go back to pick again in the same groves, they will find it to be heavy in the 36s, 40s and 48s, which should be the peak sizes now through Christmas.”
Swords said early season eating quality is strong and said he expects it to improve.
This season started normal, said Matt Reel, director of sales for IMG Citrus Inc..
IMG began harvesting light volumes Sept. 25.
Reel said the season began a little early because of an empty market pipeline.
He characterized internal and external quality as high.
“We have now settled into a normal market situation where we’re seeing good demand where people are running good promotions on bulk and bagged fruit,” Reel said. “I would say the eating quality is better at this time of the year than during a typical season. Because of that, it’s pushing retailers to do more grapefruit promotions in November than they typically would.”
Grapefruit promotions normally begin in earnest in late November and December.
DLF International Inc. began harvesting in late September.
“The eating quality is excellent this year,” Doug Feek, president, said. “It has good brix and juice ratios and good juice content.”
Feek said early season prices were higher than normal, at $23-26 for the larger fruit, but said prices declined in mid-October to $16-18.
He said the lower prices made for better retail promotions and in late October grapefruit was beginning to become more promotable.
“What has happened is Texas is starting,” Feek said. “Texas has a following. Once the pipeline gets full, demand decreases for a while. The market has allowed the fruit to become more promotable. We will get ads. Once the ads start, the fruit will start moving again.”
In mid-November, the U.S. Department of Agriculture reported these prices for 4/5 bushel cartons of U.S. No. 1 Florida red grapefruit in Boston: $22 for 27s; $19 for 32s; $16-17 for 36s; $14 for 40s; and $12 for 48s and 56s.
Last year in early November, the USDA reported those same cartons of Florida red grapefruit in Chicago selling for $18-18.50 for 27s; $15-16 for 32s and 36s; $13-15 for 40s; and $12 for 56s.
Feek said he expects growers to harvest about a month longer than they have in recent seasons.
Last year, harvesting ended by late March, considerably earlier than usual.
This year, Feek said growers should run through mid-May.
In past years, the deal finished April 1-15, Feek said.
Uncle Matt’s Organic Inc., Clermont, planned to begin its harvesting of its reds, ruby reds and darker reds on time in mid-November, said Matt McLean, chief executive officer and founder.
“We surprisingly have a little bigger size this early, which is nice,” he said in late October. “We will be able to have more bulk fruit to go in the bags.”
McLean said adequate rainfall helped produce better sizes early in the deal and said quality is matching last year’s.