Florida citrus: Best fruit in years - The Packer

Florida citrus: Best fruit in years

01/19/2012 05:10:00 PM
Jim Offner

The weather has cooperated, and some Florida shippers are saying they are selling what they call some of the best fruit they’ve had in years.

Timing, sizing and quality issues were not problems in early January, growers and shippers said.

“Our season began on our first packing day, like Sept. 11 we started packing navels and tangerines,” said Al Finch, vice president of sales and marketing with Lake Hamilton-based Florida Classic Growers Inc.

“We have just finished our sunburst tangerine variety and had an excellent year on them. The sizing overall was a little larger than the previous season. We just started our honey tangerines. They’ll be available through April.”

Sizing on that item will be somewhat smaller than the sunburst, but the crop size will be larger, Finch said.

“We’re just finishing our Florida navels and had a tremendous season on those,” he said.

“The crop size was a little larger than last season. We had good promotional activity on the 4-pound bags in navels, as well as the 3-pound bags in sunburst tangerines.”

Business has been brisk, he said.

“We had lots of ad activity,” he said.

“We’re moving to our midseason juice oranges and will have those available into the end of February. Then, we’ll begin our valencias, which will take us to the end of June,” he said.

Grapefruit also excelled, Finch said.

“The sizing of the fruit is a little larger, with more 32s and 27s available than in years past, and good promotional volume is available for January and February,” he said.

“Many retailers are running grapefruit promotions for bagged grapefruit, 5-pound bags, for January and February.”

Lakeland-based Florida Citrus Packers Inc. also reported exceptional fruit this season.

“We have more fruit available for Europe and all markets, as a matter of fact,” said Richard Kinney, president.

“We have excellent quality. Grapefruit has been exceptional and easy-peels (tangerines) have done pretty well too.”

“Decent” but not “great” was the assessment offered by David Mixon, senior vice president and chief marketing officer of Vero Beach, Fla.-based Seald Sweet International Inc.

“I will say in general I do believe that the overall citrus and produce items are very competitive with each other,” he said.

“Citrus is one of 365 items, and some retailers have as much as 400 or 500 items. When you see the competition you’re up against, it’s not what it once was or ever will be again, but I do feel Florida citrus production is at a level that really demand feeds supply, but it’s all about timing, all about maturity, production, peak production timing.”

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