Big navel crop spells good season-long supplies

10/27/2010 03:09:14 PM
Don Schrack

SHERMAN OAKS, Calif. — If the forecast from the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s National Agricultural Statistics Service is close to accurate, California’s San Joaquin Valley will be awash in navel oranges this winter.

The forecast is for a crop of 93 million cartons, 90 million of which should be grown and packed in the valley. However, customers may have to wait for the orange windfall.

“Maturity is running later than last season by about two weeks,” said Claire Smith, director of corporate communications for Sunkist Growers Inc. “And the bulk of the crop’s increase will be on the later varieties.”

Size is expected to be down slightly, especially early in the season, she said, peaking on 88-113s.

Not all grower-shippers are anticipating smaller sizes, however. Among the exceptions is Wileman Bros. & Elliott Inc., Cutler.

“We have lots of young trees that tend to produce larger fruit,” said Andrew Felts, sales manager. “I don’t think we’re necessarily in tune with the industry when it comes to sizing.”

Wileman Bros. & Elliott is scheduled to begin its navel harvest in early November, he said.

The later season start, larger volume and smaller sizing are the picture at Paramount Citrus Association, Delano, said Scott Owens, vice president of sales and marketing. On the bright side, grower-shippers expect good to excellent quality.

“We’re thinking a little bit smaller piece count, but everything else is real positive,” Owens said.

Weather permitting, Paramount is scheduled to start its navel harvest the week of Oct. 25, he said.

Shipping is scheduled to begin the first week in November at Suntreat Packing & Shipping Co., Lindsay, said Al Imbimbo, vice president of sales.

“We have a very clean crop, and the shape is very spherical,” he said.

Buyers wanting big sizes early in the season may end up frustrated.

Through the end of the year, Imbimbo said sizes will likely peak on 88-113s, but could get bigger in 2011.

Bravante Produce, Reedley, is another grower expecting to run counter to the smaller sizes. While the company’s Kern County acreage is expected to produce smaller fruit, its more northern groves are on target for larger navels, said Ken Collins, general manager.

The Kern County fruit is traditionally the first to be picked. The earliest harvest start for Bravante Produce this season, Collins said, would be the last week in October.

“It’s a good manageable crop, but I think it might be a little difficult the first month with the size structure to work through down south,” he said. “After January, I don’t think size will be a problem.”


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