Demand for high-quality California valencias is expected to pick up as school nears.
Through July 9, the California valencia crop was about half harvested, said Bob Blakely, director of industry relations at Exeter-based California Citrus Mutual.
Demand was in its typical mid-summer lull, Blakely said, thanks to abundant supplies of other summer fruits.
“It’s the time of the season when it’s a little slow,” he said.
That should change when kids start going back to school and foodservice demand for valencias picks up, Blakely said.
On July 9, the U.S. Department of Agriculture reported prices of $11.75-12.80 for 7/10 bushel cartons of California valencias 88s, up from $10.73-12.75 last year at the same time.
Sherman Oaks, Calif.-based Sunkist Growers reported brisk movement of high-quality fruit.
“The conventional and organic valencia crops have been strong this year, and quality and flavor are excellent,” said Joan Wickham, the company’s manager of advertising and public relations.
A particular bright spot for Sunkist this summer has been the continued growth in consumers’ buying fresh valencias for juicing, Wickham said.
To satisfy that demand, Sunkist is providing consumers with in-pack juicers and will be running a social media campaign that allows consumers to share their juicing tips and recipes, Wickham said.
Also this summer, Sunkist is offering a soccer-themed 10-pound carton that provides enough fruit to feed an entire team, she said.
One unexpected pleasant surprise in the first half of July was continued export demand, Blakely said. It was unusually strong for that time of year.
Southeast Asia has been the main export destination for California valencias this season, Blakely said. A Chinese ban on California citrus has not had much of an effect on movement, he said.
“We’ve been able to make it up in other markets,” he said.
Fruit was peaking on 88s in July, Blakely said. Smaller fruit was fetching good prices, in some cases slightly higher than last year at the same time.
While acreage is trending down thanks to competition from imported summer citrus, the California valencia industry is still a robust one, Blakely said.
“Growers who do a good job are still profiting,” he said.
The California Agricultural Statistics Service has estimated the valencia crop at 25 million 40-pound cartons, down from 28 million in 2012.