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.
Florida’s navel deal normally finishes in late December.
Early midseason oranges, such as hamlins, begin harvesting in October and bear bigger volume in January and February before late-season valencias begin in late February and early March.
Swords said DNE’s midseasons look good and as with other varieties, possess larger sizings. He called sizings 10% to 12% higher than last season and reported hamlins in late October peaking on 100s, larger than the normal 125s. Swords said buyers should expect larger supplies of 100s.
In late October, Florida Classic’s Finch said midseasons and hamlins possess high quality. He said those varieties and temples should make for a smooth transition to the late -season valencias, which begin harvesting in late February. Possessing a four week production window, temples typically start harvesting in mid-January.
Dundee began harvesting tangelos in late October. Finch said early sizing is peaking on the 100s but buyers should expect strong availability of 80s as well.
Quentin Roe, president of Wm. G. Roe & Sons Inc., Winter Haven, said Roe plans to start harvesting its tree-ripe tangelos in mid- to late December, earlier than its normal early January start. Roe said tangelos, normally available through late February, should successively peak on the 80s, 100s and 64s.
Swords said valencias brought steady demand last spring.
Finch characterized last year’s valencia season as “tremendously strong” and one that brought high quality fruit.
He said Dundee ran fresh oranges through June before switching to its storage program for shipments through late July.
DLF’s George said last season’s killer freezes, which devastated Florida vegetables, didn’t affect its navels but damaged some valencias grown in north-central Florida production regions.
He said the deal began slow and a little rough. George called April and May sales “extremely soft” and said a large and longer than normal California navel crop likely contributed to the demand decline.
“That California deal got fairly abundant,” George said. “F.o.b.s were cheap. Demand was really not there. Hopefully, it will turn around this season.”
DLF plans to harvest through late May and sell through July through a storage deal.