Importers and officials expect strong demand for Chilean clementines and other mandarins this summer.

Matt Gordon, Chilean program manager for DNE Fruit Sales, Fort Pierce, Fla., looks for strong retail support this summer to help spur demand for Chilean clementines.

“Consumers are used to having clementines year-round now and expect to have them in the summer as well,” Gordon said. “We hope for reasonable retails to keep demand brisk.”

Competition, however, could come from within the clementine category and without, Gordon said.

“The main competition for Chile will come from clementines of competing countries, such as South Africa and Peru,” he said. “Within the citrus category, only navels would present clear competition, with minneolas a smaller factor.”

Continuous summer demand

“Strong” and “consistent” are the two words that come to mind when Mark Greenberg, president and chief executive officer of Capespan North America LLC, St. Laurent, Quebec, is asked to characterize this year’s Chilean clementine crop.

“Clementines are a 365-days-a-year fixture in U.S. and Canadian retail chains,” Greenberg said.

“Demand will be continuous through the summer as long as product quality remains excellent — and there is no reason to expect it will not — and as long as retailers are able to feature the product at prices that allow it to compete well with summer fruit.”

Sometimes, Greenberg said, that’s easier said than done, though.

“The summer fruit deal always offers the biggest challenge,” he said. “Citrus needs to compete with grapes, stone fruit, watermelon, berries and other summer fruit for shelf space and consumer interest.”

Capespan expects its clementine deal to wind down about mid-August, but late mandarins will be available from September through early November.

Chilean navel shipments to the U.S. will continue to increase in coming years, but clementines are the biggest star in the Chilean program, said Karen Brux, North American managing director of the Chilean Fresh Fruit Association, Sonoma, Calif.

“Easy-peelers seem to be the category with the greatest growth potential, as supply expands year-round with new seedless varieties,” Brux said. “They’re an incredibly attractive item to consumers.”

Vero Beach, Fla.-based Seald Sweet International expects strong demand for its Chilean clementines this season, said Peter Anderson, the company’s Chilean citrus commodity manager.

“The continued consumer acceptance of fruit during the summer months bodes well for another season of good demand,” Anderson said. “South Africa is the main competitor in clementines, but only during a short overlap with Chile.”

South Africa’s window, Anderson said, comes earlier than Chile’s, and South African only ships about 15% of Chile’s total volume, he said.

“For several weeks, Chile is the main source of supply for summer clementines.”

Demand for late-season w. murcotts from Chile also should be strong, Anderson said. Industrywide, volumes could rise up to 25% because of new plantings coming into production, he said.

Seald Sweet expects its first arrivals on the East Coast in the first week of May, Anderson said. Promotional volumes should peak from about the third week of June through the first part of August.

Seald Sweet expects its Chilean clementine volumes to be similar to last year, but North American arrivals in general could be down up to 10% because of the smaller sizes caused by water shortages in northern growing regions, Anderson said.