DUNDEE, Fla. — Buyers should expect fewer navels but bigger volumes of grapefruit and tangerines as Florida’s early season shipments move to larger volumes.
The season is also bringing smaller-sized fruit, grower-shippers say.
Grower-shippers began harvesting in late September and early October, about a week earlier than normal.
Douglas OhlemeierAl Finch, vice president of sales and marketing for Dundee, Fla.-based Florida Classic Growers, the marketing arm of the Dundee Citrus Growers Association, views some sunburst tangerines running on the packing line in late October. Grower-shippers say tangerine quality is high and say the state expects to ship fewer navel oranges. 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.
Despite the predicted smaller volume, grower-shippers say retailers should see adequate volume of Florida navels and other oranges for winter promotions.
Additionally, navels could finish earlier than normal, said Matt Reel, director of sales for Vero Beach-based IMG Citrus Inc.
“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.”
Al Finch, vice president of sales and marketing for Florida Classic Growers, the marketing arm of the Dundee Citrus Growers Association, said some early October rain slowed harvesting, but the season was well underway by late October.
He said retailers should do well with bag promotions.
“From the feedback from our retailers, they are extremely pleased with the eating quality of the fruit,” Finch said in late October. “This has translated into their sales at store level. As we move further into November, lots of promotions have been established with major retail groups in the U.S. and Canada on bagged navels and tangerines and bulk grapefruit.”
Seald Sweet International, Vero Beach, began harvesting light volumes of grapefruit in late September but bumped up production by mid-October.
In late October, Dave Brocksmith, Seald Sweet’s Florida program manager, said the entire industry was in promotable volume.
He said the bigger volume should help promote bag sales.
“The grapefruit production forecast is basically unchanged but we will see more fresh-packed grapefruit in the market this year because processors aren’t paying such a high price this year,” Brocksmith said. “That is putting more grapefruit in the fresh marketplace and less in processing. It has taken some competitive pressures off supplies.”