As supplies of domestic citrus wind down in North America for the summer, Southern Hemisphere growers in several countries are stepping in to fill the void.
Importers say ample supplies should be available from many growing areas well into the fall, and overall quality of this season’s fruit should be good.
Total citrus exports from the Southern Hemisphere should be up about 1.7% from last year, according to the Southern Hemisphere Association of Fresh Fruit Exports.
Total exports from South Africa, Argentina, Chile, Australia, Uruguay and Peru are expected to hit 2.5 million metric tons.
Oranges, the Southern Hemisphere’s largest citrus export crop, will see a 0.9% increase to 1.3 million metric tons, and soft citrus shipments will rise 18.5% to 398,000 metric tons.
Lemon exports should reach 470,000 metric tons, down 10.2%, and grapefruit exports should be around 250,000 tons, down 3%.
Economic uncertainties in the European Union may prompt Southern Hemisphere countries to continue their market diversification by exploring growing markets in Asia, the Middle East and the U.S., said Sebastian Kruse, deputy secretary general for Brussels-based SHAFFE.
Summer citrus has been an important program for Vero Beach, Fla.-based Seald Sweet International since 2000, said Mayda Sotomayor-Kirk, chief executive officer.
“We really have seen it increasing and growing,” she said.
“It has shown that it has expandable limits.”
Seald Sweet is looking forward to shipping a large volume of citrus to the U.S. this season, she said.
“We are able to bring in good quality and the right sizes,” she said.
Seald Sweet is looking for at least a 20% increase in its navel volume this summer, Sotomayor-Kirk said.
“Our supply base has grown,” she said.
Thanks to supplies from South Africa, Chile and California, the company can offer clementines year-round with few or no gaps.
DNE World Fruit Sales, Fort Pierce, Fla., exclusive marketer of Australian citrus in the U.S., should ship 750,000 cartons of navels this year, up from 500,000 last year, said Stu Monaghan, national marketing manager.
In addition, the company expects to export 75,000 cartons of daisy tangerines, 50,000 cartons of clementines, 23,000 cartons of cara cara oranges, 24,000 cartons of blood oranges and 100,000 cartons of minneolas to the U.S., Monaghan said.
Meanwhile, Sherman Oaks, Calif.-based Sunkist Growers Inc. will have star ruby and, starting in July, ruby variety grapefruit, said Julie DeWolf, director of retailer marketing.
Sunkist’s California valencia crop volume this season is expected to be a normal 10 million to 11 million cartons, and the company will bring in small volumes of navels and cara caras from South Africa and Chile.
Sunkist continues to offer lemons year-round from California and Arizona.
St. Laurent, Quebec-based-based Fisher Capespan is a major figure in the South African deal, importing citrus to Canada and the U.S., said Paul Marier, senior vice president of sales and marketing.
The company has a strong navel program that will continue until the end of September, and the midnight variety, a seedless valencia, the last three weeks of October.
The firm also has a good clementine program, he said, and a 3-year-old grapefruit program that has been growing every year.
Grapefruit production still remains relatively light, but the firm should have enough of the fruit to service a few accounts well. The eight-week program will start in early July.
Fisher Capespan also will import navels, clementines and some lemons from Chile, where growers faced tough weather challenges last year.
“This year, the weather has been kinder to them,” Marier said.
DNE’s navels and clementines from South Africa should arrive in Philadelphia the third week in June said Tom Cowan, South African citrus manager.
Navels will continue strong through August and finish by mid-September, when the seedless midknight variety will be available until early November.
Clementines will peak in June and July and continue through August when late mandarins arrive.
South African clementines should be larger than those from Chile, have a high brix level and “should be good-eating fruit,” Cowan said.
Navels will be about one size smaller than last year, heavy on 72s then 88s and 64s with about 25% of the crop size 56s or larger, he said.