Lemon crops return to normal

10/12/2012 02:49:00 PM
Tom Burfield

The fall/winter lemon crop out of California and Arizona should return to normal volume after last year’s smaller-than-usual crop, grower-shippers say.

“The wintertime crop looks plentiful but not burdensome in volume,” said Alex Teague, senior vice president and chief operating officer for Limoneira Co., Santa Paula, Calif.

He expects this year’s crop to be 20% larger than last year’s.

“This year is more average in nature,” he said.

Most winter lemons will come from the desert growing area until January or February and from California’s San Joaquin Valley into March or April, with a few sourcing from the coastal region in later winter and early spring.

“Quality looks very good this year,” Teague said in early October. “There’s good sizing so far.”

Next year’s spring and summer crops were just developing but look similar to this year’s, he said.

Lemon volume for LoBue Bros. Inc., Lindsay, Calif., should be up this year compared to last year because of the addition of new growers, said Joe LoBue, vice president of export sales and marketing.

The firm offers lemons mostly during the winter.

“They are basically December through April,” LoBue said.

He expects good quality on lemons this year as a result of record heat in August and September.

“I think you’re going to see good-tasting citrus this year,” LoBue said. “The brix levels, we think, are going to be higher than normal a little earlier than normal because of all the warm temperatures we’ve had throughout the summer and continuing into October.”

One concern is that, with the warm weather, color will not come on as soon as it would with more moderate temperatures.

“But that will eventually come,” he said.

Lemons out of Arizona should be much improved over previous years, with less wind damage this season, said Mark Spencer, secretary-treasurer and chief operating officer for Associated Citrus Packers Inc. in Yuma, Ariz.

He expects the crop size to be normal to above normal out of the desert but below normal in Arizona because of the effects of cold weather in February.

“It was a bad freeze,” he said.

Size on the early Arizona crop is a bit ahead of most years, most likely because of the rain the region experienced in July and August, he said.

Associated should have lemons through February.

Limoneira now is packing Associated’s lemons, Spencer said.

The company decided it was time to pull out of its 70-year-old packinghouse.

“It was not cost effective to try to keep going,” he said.

Bravante Citrus, Reedley, Calif., will start shipping its San Joaquin Valley lemons in December or January, said Mike Keeline, salesman.

Volume should be similar to last year and fruit size should be the same or larger, he said.

“So far, the crop quality on everything looks really good,” he said in late September.

Lemon volume from Seald Sweet West International Inc., Dinuba, Calif., should up 35% over last year, said Rick Eastes, vice president and general manager.

The company will start its San Joaquin Valley lemons in mid-November at the earliest and continue through February, then return to the coastal region through August.

“We don’t see any shortage or anything that’s unusual,” he said. “Everything looks about normal.”

The size ratios seem to be excellent, he said in late September — mostly 115s to 165s.



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