FORT PIERCE, Fla. — Buyers should expect an earlier-than-normal finish to this year’s Florida grapefruit deal.
The late season valencia oranges, however, began production earlier than normal and should run through June, as usual, shippers report.
Grapefruit shipments could finish by early May, nearly a month earlier than normal, said Mark Hanks, vice president of North American sales and marketing for DNE World Fruit Sales.
“Seems like most of the packers are reporting lighter supplies and packouts on grapefruit,” he said in late February. “There is a lot of undersized fruit that won’t pack. We had a slow start due in part to the smaller sizes, but we’re doing more bags where there seems to be good and strong demand. The flavor and eating quality are excellent.”
Because of the lack of supply, prices for large fruit remained high in January and February and through spring, buyers should expect limited supplies for the larger sizes of 36s, 32s, 27s and 23s, Hanks said.
Dundee-based Florida Classic Growers, the marketing arm of the Dundee Citrus Growers Association, expects to finish grapefruit harvesting in late March, said Al Finch, vice president of sales and marketing.
Red grapefruit movement has remained steady, and sizing has peaked on the 48s, smaller than in past years, he said in late February.
Despite the smaller sizes, internal quality remains high, Finch said in mid-February.
In its Feb. 10 report, the U.S. Department of Agriculture reported growers had finished harvesting 36% of red grapefruit and 19% of the white grapefruit.
DNE began harvesting valencias in late January, earlier than normal.
Hanks said valencias look good and are bringing high eating quality.
Dundee’s growers finished harvesting navels in mid-January, were finishing harvesting midseason oranges in early February and began harvesting valencias in early- to mid-February, as normal, Finch said.
The navel harvest went well, and because fall harvesting began later than normal Dundee was able to extend its navel season into January and satisfy Christmas demand, he said.
“We are seeing good demand, and we look for a season similar to last year,” Finch said. “Retailers will typically be promoting the 4-pound bags on the valencias.”
Valencia sizing is below the minimum, and droppage is reported to be higher than average, according to the USDA.
Growers expect to finish harvesting honey tangerines, which typically begin in early January, by late March.
“Honeys are facing a hard time,” Hanks said. “They’ve been hit by greening very heavily. We hopefully will get through late March this year.”
Internal quality has been strong and Dundee’s growers plan to finish harvesting in late March, Finch said.
Final honey fruit size is larger than recorded during two of the past three seasons, requiring 300 pieces of fruit to fill a 1 3/5-bushel box, according to the USDA.
Jason Bedsole, sales manager of Eastern vegetables and citrus for Oviedo-based Duda Farm Fresh Foods Inc., the fresh division of Oviedo-based A. Duda & Sons Inc., said the season has gone well.
“Quality is good, and coloring is nice,” he said in late February. “The brix is there, and the fruit is good.”