Demand runs strong for Florida navels, other oranges

11/21/2011 11:33:00 AM
Doug Ohlemeier

DUNDEE, Fla. — An earlier starting season brought retail interest in Florida navels and other oranges.

Harvesting for many growers began in late September and early October, about two weeks earlier than normal.

Fort Pierce-based DNE World Fruit Sales, which markets for groves throughout central Florida and the Indian River region, began its harvests in early October.

“Navel demand has been really good,” Kevin Swords, Florida citrus sales manager, said in early November. “We are receiving a lot of retailer support promoting Florida navels while it meets the window before California gets started. With the good eating quality starting out, we have had strong repeat business.”

Heavy late October rains caused some production hiccups for growers, but Swords said the problems finished and harvests proceeded as normal.

He said sizes in late October peaked in the midsizes, which make them ideal for retail promotions. He said that should help retailers market navels through 8-pound bag promotions through Christmas.

The Dundee Citrus Growers Association began its navel harvesting in late September and in late October began moving into larger volume.

Al Finch, vice president of sales and marketing for Florida Classic Growers, Dundee’s Lake Hamilton-based marketing arm, characterized demand and eating quality as high.

“We have had good arrivals and have seen a lot of ad activity on Florida navels,” he said in early November. “Size is shaping up really nice, and there is good availability of the 64- and 80-count navels, so there has been bigger interest in promoting the 8-pound bags.”

Because growers started harvesting a couple of weeks earlier, Finch said he expects the deal to end around Christmas, a little earlier than normal.

DLF International Inc., began harvesting navels Sept. 16.

Scott George, vice president of sales and marketing, said the season is bringing a favorable crop.

“They are awesome,” George said in late October. “The navels are clean. The (retail) acceptance of our navels has been great. Consumer demand is still holding for the fruit.”

As California normally ramps up navel production in early November, George acknowledges California’s larger fresh deal affects Florida demand, but said other factors, such as long gassing hours and high freight rates could influence Eastern retailers to merchandise Florida fruit longer.

When California’s deal enters promotable volume, George said some retailers switch to the California product about the same time Florida starts winding down.


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