VERO BEACH, Fla. — This year’s Florida citrus season is bringing sweeter grapefruit, smaller volumes of navel oranges and smaller tangerine sizes.
Growers began harvesting the Sunshine State’s tangerines and grapefruit in late September and early October, about two weeks later than normal.
“The season has had a little later start, and there have been some hiccups here and there on certain varieties, but it’s going smoothly,” Kevin Swords, Florida citrus sales manager for DNE World Fruit Sales, Fort Pierce, said in late October. “We have really good eating quality right out of the shoot on grapefruit.”
Swords said the season isn’t bringing many misshapes and grapefruit brix levels and packouts are higher than last year.
Dan Richey, chief executive officer of Riverfront Groves LLC, said growers enjoyed favorable growing conditions, allowing packers to pack more fresh fruit into the cartons and higher brix levels are a contrast to last season.
“Internal flavor and quality characteristics and external appearances are better,” he said. “With that combination, we are anticipating a better year than last year. The grapefruit will look better and taste better.”
Matt Reel, director of sales for IMG Citrus Inc., said early harvesting brought high grapefruit quality.
Brix levels are 9-plus. That high sweetness doesn’t normally begin until mid-November, he said.
While navels should bring high eating quality, volume isn’t as big as last year, Reel said.
“Between the crop being down and some high prices for fruit in the field, prices should be slightly higher this year for Florida navels,” Reel said. “That may limit promotions but the quality will be high.”
Reel said the industry expects 2.5 million 4/5 bushel cartons of navels, down from 2.7 million cartons last year.
Because of the federal government shutdown, the U.S. Department Agriculture postponed its first Florida citrus season forecast until Nov. 8.
DNE’s Swords said buyers can expect high navel quality but said sizings should be in the middle range, the 64s and 80s with some jumbo navels sizes, the 40s and 36s, expected to arrive in December.
Navels generally harvest through late December when midseason oranges begin before late season valencias start by early March.
On tangerines, the early season fallglos went well, Reel said.
“All tangerine varieties we have heard will be nice,” Reel said. “We are hearing of very good quality.”
Swords said the fallglos experienced strong early fall retail promotions and the transition to sunbursts in late October should go well.
“This year’s sunbursts are good and have outstanding color,” Swords said in late October. “They are smaller in size, so we will look to push the 3-pound bags of 150s and 120s.”
Those sizings could improve in December, and retailers should consider promoting the 100s and 80s, he said.
In early November, the U.S. Department of Agriculture reported these prices for 4/5 bushel cartons of Florida citrus arriving in Boston:
For red grapefruit, $28 for 23s, $25-26 for 27s, $23-24 for 32s, $20-21 for 36s, $18-20 for 40s, $16-17 for 48s and $15-16 for 56s.
Last season in mid-October, the USDA reported $30 for 27s, $28-32 for 32s, $26-29 for 36s, $20-24 for 40s, $19-21 for 48s and $17-21 for 56s.
On navel oranges, U.S. No. 1 Florida navels prices were $26 for 40s, $27 for 48s, 56s and 64s, and $25 for 80s.
Last year, U.S. No. 1 Florida navels prices were $24 for 64s, $23-24 for 56s and $23 for 48s.
For tangerines, prices were $22 for 64s, $21-22 for 80s, and $20-21 for 100s compared to last year’s $16-18 for 64s, $26 for 64s, $23-24 for 80s and $20-21 for 100s and 110s.