VERO BEACH, Fla. — Though challenged by color issues and smaller sizings, this year’s tangerine crop is bringing high-quality fruit.
According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Nov. 8 opening season report, the Florida’s growers are forecast to harvest 3.7 million equivalent cartons of tangerines, up 14% from last season’s 3.2 million cartons.
Fallglo production increased by 7% with sunbursts projected to see a 14% increase and honey tangerines jumping by 24%, according to the USDA.
Grower-shippers start their shipping season harvesting fallglo tangerines in late September and early October before transitioning to the sunburst variety in early November.
Seald Sweet International started harvesting sunburst on Nov. 8.
Melanose, the cosmetic disease, is affecting this year’s crop, said Dave Brocksmith, Florida citrus manager.
“It’s probably not our best year aesthetically,” he said in early November. “The whole industry is suffering from a little melanose on fruit, which comes from the excessive rains we had in the summer. But the overall eating quality and sizing are very good.”
Fallglo tangerine quality was high and movement was strong, said Al Finch, vice president of sales and marketing for Florida Classic Growers, the Dundee-based marketing arm of the Dundee Citrus Growers Association.
Florida Classic’s growers began harvesting sunbursts in early November.
“We are seeing excellent quality,” Finch said in early November. “The sizing will tend to be smaller this season, peaking on the 150s. With that size, these will make for good promotable volumes in the 3-pound bags.”
Uncle Matt’s Organic Inc., Clermont, plans to finish its sunbursts much earlier than normal.
“If the demand for the sunbursts is similar to what we’ve experienced on the fallglos, they’re going to go very quickly this season,” said Steve Kiral, fresh fruit sales manager. “I think the sunbursts will hold some good potential this year. If displayed right in the produce section, they will sell.”
In the transition from the sunbursts to the early January honeys, growers sometimes experience a gap, Brocksmith said.
To help mitigate that, Seald Sweet plans to manage its packings, he said.
Russell Kiger, sales manager of DLF International Inc., said growers are eyeing a favorable year on honeys.
“It’s too early to judge, but they should be good this year,” Kiger said in early November. “Two years ago, we had a cool December, which made all the difference as the cool weather helps color them up nicely. If we have a warm summer, that matures the fruit but it is pale. The eating quality will be there, but the color is what sells the fruit. We need some good cool weather to bring out the color.”
Kiger said last season went well except for the fruit’s color.
IMG Citrus Inc., began harvesting sunbursts lightly in early November and planned to conduct its first promotions in mid-November.
“This crop will be trending toward the smaller sizes, so we will have to focus on the 3-pound bags,” said Matt Reel, director of sales. “We will see the fruit peak on the 150s and hopefully will see 120s. Sunbursts usually peak on the 120s and in a real good season the 100s.”
Reel characterized quality as high and said brix levels should improve by late November as the weather cools.
He said the fruit’s appearance during early harvesting is strong and said the fruit possesses that characteristic deep orange color.
In mid-November, the U.S. Department of Agriculture reported these prices for 4/5-bushel cartons of Florida sunburst tangerines arriving in Boston: 80s for $32, 100s for $29 and 125s for $25. Last season in early November, 64s and 80s sold for $28-29, 72s for $29 for, 100s for $27-28, 120s for $25-26 and 150s for $26.