(Sept. 16) This season’s California navel orange crop should yield higher volumes and a smaller size profile, shippers say.

Early on, shippers were calling for a total crop of 75 million to 80 million 37.5-pound cartons, compared to the 2001 crop of 64 million.

The past 10 to 12 years, if you ignore the freeze years, the state’s navel crop has averaged around 76 million cartons, said Joe LoBue, director of marketing for LoBue Bros., Lindsay, Calif.


“So we’re at a normal supply, not an oversupply, with good, medium sizes,” he said.

Scott Mabs, director of grower services for California Citrus Mutual, Exeter, also said it looks like a normal crop, but it shouldn’t be a limb-buster.

Randy Jacobson, sales manager for Cecelia Packing Corp., Orange Cove, Calif., said the company expects about 20% more volumes than last year.

Last season, high temperatures in the spring thinned navel orange blooms, which translated to lower volumes and a size profile peaking on 56s, LoBue said.

Early indications called for this season to have a structure similar to the 1999-2000 crop, which peaked on 88s, then 113s, followed by 72s, he said.


The navel harvest should start in late October, but the industry won’t enter significant volumes until early November, LoBue said.

LoBue Bros. has about 90% of its valencias picked by early September, which should leave them with supplies until mid-October.

Cecelia Packing should finish its valencias about two weeks to three weeks before it starts navels, Jacobson said. Still, he said he doubts there will be an industrywide gap preceding the navel deal, he said.

On Sept. 9, the U.S. Department of Agriculture reported the following f.o.b.s for cartons of first-grade California valencias: 48s-72s $7-8, 88s-113s $8.50-9 and 138s $7.25-8.

Last year, the USDA first reported prices for the navels Nov. 13, with the following first-grade f.o.b.s: 48s $15-16, 56s-72s $16-17, 88s $15-17, 113s $13-15 and 138s $13.


Early packers will set the tone for the navel deal with the quality of the fruit and the prices they sell at, Mabs said. Taste matters when it comes to repeat sales, he said.

“We want to make sure that from the outset, we’re putting out good-tasting California navels,” he said. The fruit will need sugar-to-acid ratios of 8-to-1, he said.

If the Spanish clementine deal resumes this year, it also could affect winter markets for navels.

Mabs said valencias have fetched low markets this season, partly because of price competition between California shippers. Jacobson said the industry seemed eager to keep volumes moving early on in the valencia deal. But pricing firmed up around mid-July, after reduced supplies took pressure off the market, he said.