Freeze, greening lead to lower volumes in 2014

01/27/2014 01:40:00 PM
Melissa Shipman

Citrus estimates for the U.S. are down from December numbers, according to the Jan. 11 U.S. Department of Agriculture forecast.

The total U.S. production estimate for tangerines has dropped about 3% since December. Oranges are down roughly 5% so far.

click image to zoomCalifornia Citrus MutualBob Blakey, director of industry relations for California Citrus Mutual, says damage from low temperatures in early December is worse in Kern County, where groves have fewer wind machines.

Florida

Florida’s numbers are down as well, largely because of citrus greening, according to suppliers. USDA numbers show a reduction of about 14% for oranges this season compared with last year.

Still, the season is going well so far, said Al Finch, vice president of sales and marketing for Florida Classic Growers, the marketing arm of the Dundee Citrus Growers Association.

He acknowledged some weather worries in January.

“The temperatures came out OK in central Florida. We had some windy conditions, which helped,” he said.

 

California

California estimates are likely to continue to drop as official estimates are released since early December’s freeze.

Low temperatures Dec. 4-10 in the San Joaquin Valley have definitely affected citrus supply, according to grower-shippers in that region.

As of January 15, no official numbers were available from Exeter-based California Citrus Mutual.

“We’re still trying to determine the exact extent of the damage,” said Bob Blakely, director of industry relations.

The USDA January estimate lists numbers 3% to 5% lower than December estimates for oranges and tangerines.

Blakely said he expected an accurate report to be released near the end of January.

He said damage is worse in Kern County, and that other areas saw only minor effects.

“They don’t have as many wind machines down there, so there was less damage as you move north,” Blakely said.

Doug Sankey, sales manager of Parlier, Calif.-based Sunwest Fruit, said he has heard damage report estimates range from 20% to 25% of the navel crop, and closer to 50% for mandarins.

However, as mandarin harvests continue, more accurate numbers will be available.

Neil Galone, vice president of sales and marketing for Booth Ranches LLC, Orange Cove, Calif., said the timeline of the harvest also has been affected.

“The cold weather has also changed the timeline. We normally have navels into June and occasionally into July, but I don’t think that will happen this year. I’m guessing we’ll end in May, and if not certainly by early June,” Galone said.

Still, despite all the upsets caused by the freeze, Galone and other growers agree quality is still strong.


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