Freezes early and droughts later on will hamper volumes of Chilean clementines.
How much the freezes affected clementine production remained largely an unanswered question as late as the first half of April, said James Milne, citrus category director for Vancouver, British Columbia-based The Oppenheimer Group.
“Your guess is as good as mine,” Milne said. “Everybody’s in the same boat. It’s been a difficult season down there, and volume and size have definitely been affected.”
One figure being thrown around in April was up to a 30% volume reduction for the 2014 season, Milne said.
Oppy also is concerned about too much small fruit, but quality shouldn’t be an issue this year.
“Most of the growers say the externals are fine,” Milne said. “They haven’t seen the effects of wind, and blemish-wise, they should be all right.”
While Oppy hasn’t had confirmation of the Chilean season’s start date, Milne said the first containers from some growing regions could begin arriving in the first week of May.
Fruit from the San Felipe and other southern growing regions Oppy sources from could enter the North American market by the third week of May, he said.
Oppy expects to wrap up its Chilean clementine deal at the end of July, at which point the company will shift its attention to Chilean murcotts, Milne said.
Mark Greenberg, president and chief executive officer of Capespan North America LLC, St. Laurent, Quebec, said Capespan expects its first arrivals of Chilean clementines in early June.
Volumes will be lighter than usual at the beginning of the season, Greenberg said.
“With drought conditions and a resulting light crop, we expect the market to be chronically short of clementines through most of June,” he said.
Looking at the deal as a whole, Greenberg predicts that overall volumes will be down come season’s end. It’s not the fall freezes, which were devastating to many Chilean fruit crops, that’s primarily to blame.
“We expect to see industry volumes decline from last year, which was itself a short clementine season,” he said. “The freeze in September had some impact, but the real culprit is the drought affecting many growing regions.”
As summer progresses, however, other growing regions will help Chile fill the pipeline.
“July should see greater volumes arrive, with product from both Chile and South Africa.”
One silver lining to the Chilean season is that color, condition, eating quality and size profile weren’t likely affected by the drought or freezes, Greenberg said.