“So far, the season has shaped up just fine,” said David Krause, president of Paramount Citrus Association Inc., Delano, Calif.
“We’re pleased with where we are today — a little bit farther behind in terms of the later start, but not troubled by it and happy with the movement we’ve been seeing. A little bit of a struggle on size structure, but that’s somewhat limited by the delayed start and the slow to mature.”
The cold posed no serious problems, said Claire Smith, director of corporate communications for Sherman Oaks, Calif.-based Sunkist Growers Inc.
“Despite a December full of frosty nighttime temperatures, it appears that the majority of oranges and lemons have escaped harm,” Smith said.
“Growers spent many hours and much money in protecting their crops, and those efforts seem to have worked. There is some concern for portions of the mandarin crops due to their greater susceptibility to cold, but it is too soon to ascertain if there has been any fruit damage.”
Lemon demand is reaching pre-recession levels, Smith said.
“We expect good demand and good supplies in January and February despite a shorter crop this year from Arizona and Southern California growing areas,” she said.
“The overall navel market appears stable and demand is increasing in both domestic and export markets as is normal for this time period. Specialty citrus crops look to be of very good quality this year, although estimates are for a smaller volume of almost all the varieties.”
California fruit was a bit late to start, but that was about the only problem, said Andrew Brown, a grower and director with California Citrus Mutual, Exeter.
“It’s been abnormally cool. You didn’t have our historical amount of heat accumulation, and that kind of delayed development of fruit,” he said.
“Maturity has been a little later in coming.”
Harvest in navels, mandarins and lemons peaked at the end of 2011, Brown said.
Supplies out of California appeared normal, said Bob Blakely, director of industry relations with the California Citrus Mutual.
“We’re doing a good job of supplying the market,” he said.
“We were two to three weeks getting started, but in terms of weekly volumes, we’re about at where were at this time last year, which also had a late start. We’re probably approaching 20% harvested. We’re typically closer to 25% at this time of the season.”
The crop is lighter, but that shouldn’t be a problem, said Tom Wollenman, general manager of LoBue Bros., Lindsay, Calif.
“We have a little lighter crop than we had last year, which was probably a good thing, because we had a huge crop last year,” he said.
“Our start was later, which paralleled all the other tree fruits and vineyards. The demand has been steady. Prices are fairly decent. The exports to Asia are kicking in as they always do this time of year.”