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.
Finch said Dundee plans to finish juice orange harvesting in February as the late season valencias, Dundee’s largest variety, begin harvesting in late February.
Finch said last season went well on the valencias. He said demand was high and said growers harvested excellent eating quality fruit.
Dundee plans to harvest through late May and ship valencias from Dundee’s cold storage program through July.
Dave Brocksmith, Florida program manager for Seald Sweet International, Vero Beach, said the season was bringing average exterior quality on navels.
He said the smaller volume should bring growers higher prices.
“Last season went well for growers, but there wasn’t a lot of promotable volume because processors were in the marketplace buying everything they could get their hands on and paying big money for it, which kept prices very high on the fresh end and made it a little tougher to promote because of lack of supply and high price,” Brocksmith said.
In mid-November, the U.S. Department of Agriculture reported these prices for 4/5-bushel cartons of U.S. No. 1 Florida navels in Boston: $22 for 36s, 40s, 48s and 80s; $20-21 for 56s; and $20 for 64s.
Last year in mid-November, the USDA reported those same cartons of navels in Boston selling for $20 for 40s; $20-21 for 48s, 56s, 64s and 80s; and $16 for 125s.
Doug Feek, president of DLF International Inc., Vero Beach, said this year’s navel season started strong.
“The early season was good,” he said in late October. “The rains we had in early October slowed us a bit and created some challenges for the industry. But the first navels did well. They’re pretty clean. The overall crop is down but the quality is up.”
Navel packouts are strong, said Matt McLean, chief executive officer and founder of Uncle Matt’s Organic Inc., Clermont.
“The navels don’t appear to have near the size problems,” he said in late October. “Last season, they were much larger. Now they’re more uniform which is good for bags and bulk, not just one of the other. Last year, navels skewed to the larger bulk sizes. There’s a better size range this season.”
McLean said adequate summer rain in central Florida help produce quality navels.
On valencias, Quentin Roe, president of Noble World Wide, Winter Haven, said last season was favorable.
“Last year went really well,” Roe said. “We had a good quality valencia. We marketed valencias to the middle of July with a little coming off the fresh run.”
Noble plans to begin Valencia harvesting in early March and run through late June.