California grower-shippers are hoping for an early start to the summer valencia deal, since navel supplies are expected to wind down soon.
California Agricultural Statistics Service estimates this season’s valencia crop at 28 million 40-pound cartons, down slightly from last year’s 29 million cartons, said Bob Blakely, director of industry relations for California Citrus Mutual, Exeter.
In addition, the state’s growers will continue to offer lemons throughout the summer.
Although about 10% of California’s navel crop was damaged by early-winter freezes, the cold weather did not hurt the upcoming valencia crop, Blakely said.
California had an even drier year than usual, but spring rains helped ramp up sizing on late-season navels as well as valencias and lemons, he said.
Some shippers already had exported a few valencias by early May, but he said the deal was off to a slow start.
However, the fruit should be eating well when volume picks up significantly in late June or early July.
“I haven’t heard anything negative about the quality,” Blakely said in mid-May.
Booth Ranches, Orange Cove, Calif., had started shipping valencias in early May, and expects to ship late navel varieties until the third or fourth week of June, said Neil Galone, vice president of sales and marketing.
Some shippers started late navels in early May and expected to finish by the end of that month, he said. Others hoped to continue into July.
Booth Ranches plans to ship valencias into October, Galone said.
In the past, the company tried to wind down its valencia deal in July or August, but last year, the firm extended the program and discovered a good customer following. Since valencias hold well, they can ship longer.
“It fits the profile certain customers wanted,” Galone said.
This year, the fruit has sized pretty well, he said.
He anticipates a large amount of size 56s, which is larger than the 88s or 113s that many buyers prefer.
Buyers can source lemons from California just about year-round.
Alex Teague, senior vice president and chief operating officer of Limoneira Co., Santa Paula, Calif., said California’s summer lemon deal was looking good, with excellent quality and supplies.
Retailer and foodservice business was picking up this spring, he said.
Most of the state’s summer lemons come from district 2, the Ventura County growing region near the coast, which experienced good growing conditions with just enough rain for a perfect set and good size, Teague said, and “not too much wind scar.”