DUNDEE, Fla. — Despite forecast smaller volume, retailers should find adequate volume of Florida navels and other oranges for winter promotions, grower-shippers say.
According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Oct. 11 initial season forecast, Florida is expected to produce 2.2 million equivalent cartons of navels, 17% fewer than last year’s.
If realized, the USDA says the 2012-13 season could be the lowest navel producing season since the 1985-86 season.
Despite the smaller forecast, Kevin Swords, Florida citrus sales manager for DNE World Fruit Sales, Fort Pierce, said buyers should expect strong promotions.
“Going into Thanksgiving, we would like to continue hitting the Florida navels hard in promotions,” Swords said in late October. “The navels surprised us with a little larger sizing. We weren’t trying to focus on the 8-pound bag promotions, putting the larger fruit in the bags. As we get into December, we can continue those 8-pound bag promotions on a weekly routine and would like for them to be the standard for display.”
Early end to season
The smaller crop and lower fruit acids could mean the season ending earlier than normal, said Matt Reel, director of sales for IMG Citrus Inc., Vero Beach.
“We will see lighter volumes in late December and early January than we usually do,” Reel said in early November. “That’s because of the lower acid levels in the fruit. Primary Florida volume finishes by the end of December, but we will see a lot of shippers finish earlier. With the lower acid in the fruit, they won’t hold on to the tree as long.”
Reel also said fruit are sizing larger than average.
Retailers can capitalize on the larger sizings by running 8-pound bag promotions, Reel said.
Dundee Citrus Growers Association started its navels harvesting Sept. 13.
Because of an earlier than normal start, Al Finch, vice president of sales and marketing for Florida Classic Growers, Dundee’s marketing arm, said he expects Dundee growers to finish navel harvesting around Christmas, a couple of weeks earlier than usual.
Despite the smaller navel crop being forecast, Finch said he expects strong retail promotions for bagged fruit.
“Quality has been very good,” he said. “Comments from our retail groups have been very favorable. They say they’re pleased with the quality as far as appearance and eating quality.”
Shortly after Dundee’s growers commenced their navel harvests, growers began harvesting the ambersweet and hamlin juice orange varieties, the varieties shoppers use to fresh-squeeze orange juice, Finch said.