Chilean clementine volumes will likely be limited early in the season, but importers expect them to return to normal later in the deal.

The first clementines from Chile’s Region IV should begin arriving in North America in the second week of May, with volumes increasing weekly thereafter, said Mark Greenberg, president and chief executive officer of Capespan North America LLC, St. Laurent, Quebec.

Water shortages will likely have a big effect on the amount of clementines arriving from Chile early in the deal, Greenberg said.

“The IV region is facing serious water shortages, and this is the most important climatic factor affecting the early clementine crop,” he said. “There is simply not sufficient water in the region. Reservoirs are dry and many ranches have not got the water they need. A lot of fruit will be sacrificed.”

In addition, Greenberg said, Region IV fruit is on the small side because of the water shortages. That smaller fruit could stay in the domestic market, further reducing early volumes.

Fortunately, he said, volumes should pick up as the Chilean deal progresses.

“In the central region there is not so acute a water shortage, although some areas are facing drought,” he said. “I would not expect Chilean export volumes to dip dramatically from last year’s exports, but it will definitely be lighter in the early weeks.”

Chilean clementines will likely be shipped to North America from May to August and mandarins from August to November, said Karen Brux, North American managing director of the Chilean Fresh Fruit Association, Sonoma, Calif.

Matt Gordon, Chilean program manager for DNE Fruit Sales, Fort Pierce, Fla., said the company expects to begin receiving fruit from Chile in the third week of May.

Volumes should peak from late June to mid-July, Gordon said.

Quality should be good this year, Gordon said, but he agreed with Greenberg that volume and sizing will be limited at the outset.

“The first clementines from Chile come from the north, and they’re experiencing a pretty severe lack of water,” he said. “Initial reports are that the size profile will be smaller than last season, at least from that region.”

While volumes will likely be down early in the season, Gordon said he was optimistic about the Chilean clementine deal overall.

“Our goal is to grow our clementine exports from Chile.”