Chilean clementine volumes could be down slightly this season because of weather-related growing problems, and sizing will be on the small side, but importers are expecting good quality.

A drought in Chilean citrus growing regions, particularly in the north, will likely make a dent in the country’s export program this year, said James Milne, business development director for Vancouver, British Columbia-based The Oppenheimer Group.

Chilean citrus volumes are projected to be down 12% this season. While quality is expected to be good, the drought will likely affect size, Milne said.

“There is an abundance of small fruit,” he said.

Fruit should begin arriving in the U.S. by late May or early June, Milne said.

Milne expects Oppenheimer’s Chilean clementine volumes to be up in 2011.

“Our program is based around growth,” he said. “We do anticipate growth in all of our citrus.”

Oppenheimer expects to ship Chilean clementines through mid-August, Milne said.

Fisher Capespan Inc., St. Laurent, Quebec, expects to receive its first load of clementines from northern Chile in the last week or two of May, said Mark Greenberg, the company’s senior vice president of procurement.

Volume shipments should begin in late June or early July, with the heart of production in Chile’s central region taking place in July, Greenberg said.

Volumes and fruit size could be down this season because of water issues in the northern growing regions, he said.

“Chile is facing some challenges,” he said. “They say the crop volume is down a bit from last year.”

That said, Greenberg expects to have more than enough fruit to fill Fisher Capespan’s North American orders.

“There will still be a lot of fruit,” he said. “We expect steady supplies.”

The dry conditions shouldn’t affect quality, Greenberg said.

“They irrigate, so they don’t depend on rain,” he said. “Chile puts out an excellent piece of fruit.”

Matt Gordon, Chilean program manager for DNE World Fruit Sales, Fort Pierce, Fla., said he expects Chilean clementine supplies to begin arriving about May 17, a typical start to the deal.

DNE, like other importers, has heard reports that volumes could be light on the front end because of weather in the north, Gordon said.

Most growers are reporting normal yields, he said, but a few who are having severe water-related problems are bringing the industry volume total down.

DNE’s Chilean volumes will likely peak in late June and the first two weeks of July, Gordon said.

“There will be plenty of fruit around in July; then it will taper off in August,” he said.

David Mixon, senior vice president and chief marketing officer of Seald Sweet International, Vero Beach, Fla., said Chilean shippers will begin loading product in late April, with U.S. arrivals expected two weeks after that.

After another week in the system, Chilean clementines should be on U.S. shelves by the second half of May, Mixon said.

Drought in the north will affect volume and size profile but not quality.

“The quality is outstanding,” Mixon said.

Volumes will pick up once the Chilean deal moves south, Mixon said. Chile benefits from having a variety of growing regions and microclimates, which helps equalize the supplies over the course of a season, he said.

Seald Sweet expects to increase its volumes this season, but overall clementine exports to the U.S. could be off up to 2%, Mixon said.