Buyers in certain countries have exacting criteria for the citrus they import.
Hong Kong likes a heavy pack for its navels, Olsen said.
“We notch up our size a little bit for the box,” he said.
Japan and South Korea buyers seek a higher grade that is “cleaner and a little bit better than our domestic fancy fruit,” he said.
Export customers of Valhalla Sales & Marketing demand the same thing as domestic customers, Stone said. “It’s all about taste.”
Buyers of California navel and valencia oranges in South Korea, Japan, the Middle East and Southeast Asia seek high-quality fruit, said Neil Galone, vice president of sales and marketing for Booth Ranches LLC, Orange Cove, Calif., where exports are a lucrative deal.
“They demand the absolute best you have, and they’re willing to pay for it,” he said.
Phytosanitary barriers are issues in some countries.
“Australia is tough on certain bugs,” Johnston said.
In fact, fruit destined for Down Under must be precleared before it leaves the U.S., he said, to ensure that is free of pests and complies with maximum residue limit requirements.
China banned orange shipments from the U.S. last April because of concerns about brown rot detected in a few shipments of California oranges.
“They found a (type) of brown rot that they claim they don’t have over there,” Johnston said.
Chile objects to the use of morpholine, a chemical compound used as an emulsifier in the wax coating that is applied to oranges.
Likely starting next season, South Korea will require California navels to be treated with methyl bromide before being shipped in order to prevent Fuller rose beetle eggs from hitchhiking on the fruit.