David Mixon, chief marketing officer for Seald Sweet LLC, Vero Beach, Fla., said Chile’s citrus-growing areas had an unseasonable cold snap over the July Fourth weekend. Until the industry can measure the damage done to its crop, which can take a week or even 10 days, the forecast of exports to the U.S. is clouded.
Mixon said the temperatures recorded there indicate an “extremely high” likelihood of damage to the citrus, but “it’s hard to predict how the fruit will react, and there’s a lot of variables.”
Chile’s cold snap is just the latest weather hurdle for the industry. South Africa, which exported a record 1.5 million metric tons of citrus last season, dealt with a yearlong draught and hailstorms that will limit the nation’s citrus exports by 5% from last year’s record.
Mixon said Chile typically kicks off the summer citrus program in late May with its clementines. Then South Africa starts exporting citrus around the middle of June. Both countries’ seasons go through October. Peru — with fewer clementines and navels than those countries but more minneola tangelos — bolsters and diversifies the supply from the end of June through September.
Mixon said that while the industry expects less fruit out of South Africa, the fruit has had normal size and the quality has been “exceptional.” He said the external color and internal flavor were both strong and brix counts were 1-3 points higher than usual.
He said the prices of international citrus have been about average, with no anticipation for any major shifts, but the jury is still out on what Chile’s cold snap could mean to volumes and prices.
One fruit that probably won’t escape the Chile cold snap untouched is lemons. Mixon said he was definitely expecting smaller-than-normal volumes of lemons, and therefore higher prices, but even the extent of those changes are yet unknown.
As international production has ramped up, the domestically grown summer citrus supply is winding down.
Al Imbimbo, vice president of sales and marketing for Suntreat Packing & Shipping Co., Lindsay, Calif., said his company was selling its last load of California navels.
“I think there will be some people who will be shipping California navels through August,” he said, “but I have a feeling most will be shipped out sooner.”