California’s mandarin volume will be up this season as more acres of bearing fruit become available, said Joel Nelsen, president of California Citrus Mutual, Exeter.

Mandarin sales are making a dent in the navel orange deal because they’re easy to peel, taste good and have a small size “that is not overbearing,” said Jeff Olsen, president of Chuck Olsen Co., Visalia, Calif.

But he quickly added, “People still do love navels.”

Prices last year were very good on mandarins, Olsen said, and he hopes those prices will remain strong this year to enable growers to meet rising production costs.

Conditions were looking good for the satsuma crop at Mulholland Citrus, Orange Cove, Calif., said Fred Berry, director of marketing.

“It should be a great year for overall quality, maturity, taste and appearance,” he said.

The crop seemed to be maturing ahead of last year’s, he said, but triple-digit temperatures in late summer and early fall were keeping the fruit from coloring up.

He checked out some orchards in mid-September and found fruit that was ready to be picked, “but the color wasn’t there.”

He hoped for cooler days and nighttime temperatures in the 50s or low 60s to help bring on some color.

About an inch of rain “to wash the trees off and settle the dust” was on Berry’s wish list, as well.

Mulholland Citrus expected to start its satsuma deal in mid-October, probably a few days earlier than last year, Berry said.

Fowler, Calif.-based Bee Sweet Citrus Inc. expected to start picking satsumas in early October, about a week before the company was set to begin its navel harvest, said Keith Watkins, farm department manager.

He anticipated very good quality and nice sizing, especially on early fruit.

Growers who have ample water should have excellent quality, he said, while those who were coming up short could see some smaller fruit sizes.

Some transitioning was taking place from later mandarins to earlier varieties to avoid competing with clementines, Watkins added.

Bee Sweet Citrus also offers murcotts, page mandarins, cara cara oranges, blood oranges, clementines and lemons.

Suntreat Packing & Shipping Co., Lindsay, Calif., was on schedule to kick off its Sumo mandarin program the first week of February, said Al Imbimbo, vice president of sales.

The fruit with a distinctive knot on top “is the biggest mandarin you’ve ever seen,” according to the company’s website.

It should ship through March.

The Sumo program will be preceded by cara caras, which should start the second week of December, then minneolas. Sumos will be followed by gold nugget mandarins.

“We tend to be more of a specialty mandarin house,” Imbimbo said, rather than handling clementines and murcotts.

Sunkist Growers Inc., Valancia, Calif., continues to increase its acreage of several newer varieties and now offers more than 40 kinds of premium citrus, said Joan Wickham, manager, advertising and public relations.

Those newer varieties include expanded offerings in the easy-peel category, including late-season citrus like Gold Nugget mandarins and Ojai Pixie tangerines, and specialty varieties like cara cara navel oranges, minneola tangelos, meyer lemons and pummelos, she said.

Chuck Olsen Co. will have a larger crop of clementines this season than last as a result of new production, Olsen said.

Demand for clementines is increasing, he added.

“They’re everywhere,” Olsen said. “They’re in every store.”

The company should start shipping clementines the first week of November and continue through March.

Mulholland Citrus expected to start its clementine deal the first week of November, three to five days ahead of last year, Berry said.

Again, color will be a factor, but the company doesn’t have a huge crop to market, so Berry said he did not feel the need to “push the envelope on the front end.”

Larger shippers likely would start a week ahead of Mulholland Citrus, he said.