UPDATED: Lemons getting ready to go in California - The Packer

UPDATED: Lemons getting ready to go in California

02/24/2010 02:27:04 PM
Ashley Bentley

California continues to produce more grapefruit, although Sunkist’s market share in the U.S. grapefruit industry is significantly smaller than its share for lemons, as Texas dominates the grapefruit market.

“California grapefruit production is going to go up in coming years,” said Vince Mazzetti, vice president of land management and development for Riverside-based Blue Banner Co., Sunkist’s largest grapefruit packer. “In 10-12 years, there will be more grapefruit in the Central Valley, as well, which used to be mostly oranges.”

Over the last decade or so, Sunkist has seen a complete change in the grapefruit lineup, going from a large volume of white grapefruit to almost none in recent years.

Psyllid concerns

In addition to water issues, growers are doing their best to control the Asian citrus psyllid, a pest that can carry huanglongbing, a detrimental disease for the citrus industry. Although the psyllid has been found in California, none of the pests have been carriers of the disease thus far.

Sierra Pacific Farms built new machinery this year to clean lemons coming off the trees in Riverside County, Calif., before they’re shipped up to Ventura, Calif., for packing. Riverside County was recently added to a quarantine list for the psyllid.

Sierra Pacific Farms ran lemons from northern San Diego County through the washing line Feb. 23.

“We didn’t want to do this,” McIntyre said. “We don’t want to handle the fruit twice.”

The machine gives the fruit a quick wash and separates out any stems or leaves.

Sunkist started using DataBars on its stickers for individual fruit this month in the U.S., and launched a traceback initiative in export markets in January. Executives are looking at potential Global Food Safety Initiative auditors for the near future.

The company is keeping up with the milestones outlined in the Produce Traceability Initiative, and is getting ready to implement case-level barcode identification as its next step.

“Part is putting in the software and hardware, bar code printers,” Wong said. “Our system is alpha numeric right now.”

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