VERO BEACH, Fla. — Buyers should expect Florida to produce higher volumes of grapefruit and tangerines but ship fewer cartons of navel oranges.

Grower-shippers began harvesting tangerines and grapefruit in mid- to late September.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture is predicting Florida to produce 2.2 million cartons of navels, 17% fewer than last season.

This season could be the lowest production since 1986, according to the USDA.

For overall orange production, the USDA’s Oct. 10 first season forecast predicted the state would pack 154 million equivalent cartons of oranges, 5% higher than last season’s.

On grapefruit, production gains in colored grapefruit are expected to boost production 8% from last season and tangerines are forecast 3% higher than last year.

Good sizing, quality

Matt Reel, director of sales for IMG Citrus Inc., said the expected shorter navel crop should help on the sizings.

He said the Indian River growing region experienced less rain and cooler temperatures that helped growers return to harvesting its grapefruit, navels and tangerines.

“The quality is looking very good,” Reel said in mid-October. “We are seeing some larger sizes on our navels and seeing good eating quality.

“Grapefruit is a good, average size peak that’s peaking on 40-counts, which is allowing us to do a lot of bag promotions. We ware very happy with the internal quality of the fruit,” he said.

The Dundee Citrus Growers Association began harvesting its fallglo tangerines and navels in mid-September and started its grapefruit harvesting later the same month in a slow way because maturities weren’t high enough, said Al Finch, vice president of sales and marketing for Florida Classic Growers, Dundee’s Lake Hamilton-based marketing arm.

Because of smaller national supplies in late September, Finch said grapefruit demand was strong.

He acknowledged the smaller navel crop but said he’s seeing big demand for grapefruit as well as tangerines.

“Demand has been excellent as many retailers are looking to fill their shelves with Florida citrus,” Finch said in early October.

“Many retailers have finished their imported citrus program and are looking to transition into Florida citrus sets in their stores,” he said.

“The bagged product is seeing the most interest. Lots of ad activity is taking place with ads breaking on 3-pound tangerine bags,” he said.

Consistent volumes

Duda Farm Fresh Foods Inc., the fresh division of Oviedo-based A. Duda & Sons Inc., started this season well, said Jason Bedsole, sales manager of Eastern vegetables and citrus.

“We are off to a great start with grapefruit,” he said in mid-October. “The quality coming off the trees is good and deliveries are great. Volumes have been consistent.”

Bedsole said he expected Duda’s orange and tangerine harvesting to begin in mid-October and characterized quality and consistency as strong as well.

Dan Richey, chief executive officer, said the season is shaping up well and said he expects exporters to do better.

“Quality appears to be better than last year,” he said. “Our quality from last year coming off that freeze was a little challenging for the industry. We weren’t able to fill orders. This year, Japan and European markets are void of fruit.”

Prices higher

For grapefruit, the USDA on Oct. 29 reported 4/5 bushel cartons of Texas grapefruit selling for $24.25-24.50 for 27s, $20.25-20.50 for 32s, $16.30-18.25 for 36s, $13.50-14.25 for 40s, $11.50-12.50 for 48s and $8.50-9.30 for 56s.

Last season, the USDA reported those same cartons from Florida in Boston selling for $23 for 23s, $22-23 for 27s, $20-21 for 32s, $18 for 36s, $15 for 40s, $13-14 for 48s and $12 for 56s.

On oranges, the USDA in mid-October reported 4/5 bushel cartons of U.S. No. 1 Florida navels in Boston selling for $24 for 64s, $23-24 for 56s and $23 for 48s. Updated figures were not available at press time.

Last year in mid-October, the USDA reported those same cartons in Boston selling for $20-21 for 64s and $16 for 100s.

For tangerines, 4/5 bushel cartons of Florida fallglos in Boston sold for $16-18 for 64s, $26 for 64s, $23-24 for 80s and $20-21 for 100s and 110s.

In mid-October last year, the USDA reported those same cartons of Florida fallglos in Boston fetching $20 for 64s, $17 for 80s and $16 for 100s.