Sluggish clementine markets are starting to bounce back as supplies of other promotable summer fruit favorites begin to diminish.
After a glut of product earlier in the month, the clementine market has bounced back significantly, said Mayda Sotomayor-Kirk, chief executive officer for Seald Sweet International, Vero Beach, Fla.
“The situation has drastically changed in the past 10 days,” she said Aug. 21.
Sluggish movement earlier in August was the product, Sotomayor-Kirk said, of a “perfect storm” of large volumes and a lack of promotions.
Typically, she said, clementines are popular enough that shippers don’t worry about big volumes. But this year, a huge cherry crop and promotable volumes of watermelons, cantaloupes, honeydews and other summer fruit pulled retailers’ promotional focus off of clementines.
And with big volumes from three regions — Chile, South Africa and Peru — demand suffered.
But mid-August, however, volumes of rival fruits tapered off, children returned to school and clementine movement started to pick up, Sotomayor-Kirk said.
So much so, that by the week of Aug. 27, demand for imported clementines could exceed supply, she said.
On Aug. 21, the U.S. Department of Agriculture reported prices of $22-24 for 15 2-pound mesh bags of Chilean clementines 15-28s, down from $28-30 last year at the same time.
Demand for South African clementines began to pick up “in the last few weeks,” Gerrit van der Merwe, chairman of the Citrusdal, South Africa-based Western Cape Citrus Producers Forum, said Aug. 21.
Van der Merwe also sees an opportunity for clementines as supplies of other summer favorites taper.
“More late mandarin varieties are expected shortly to fill the gap left by the traditional summer fruits, which will soon no longer be available,” he said.
The quality of this season’s South African clementines is some of the best ever, van der Merwe said.
Van der Merwe agreed with Sotomayor-Kirk that demand for clementines for kids’ school lunches will help keep movement brisk.
As production switches to clemengolds, murcotts and other late-season varieties, quality should improve, further driving demand, Sotomayor-Kirk said.
Peruvian supplies should start to decline in September, with other regions shipping into October, Sotomayor-Kirk said.
“There will be very little gap between (Chile and South Africa) and Spain and California,” she said.
South African clementines will likely ship through early November, van der Merwe said.