VERO BEACH, Fla. — Grower-shippers say this year’s tangerine crop is among the highest ever in terms of quality.
Some, however, remain concerned about a possible supply gap during the transition from the sunbursts to the later season honey tangerines.
Quentin Roe, president of Noble World Wide, the sales division of Wm. G. Roe & Sons Inc., Winter Haven, said an earlier season start could see sunbursts finishing by mid-December.
He said he hopes the honey tangerines come on earlier than normal as well and prevents any supply gaps.
Noble finished its harvesting of early season fallglo tangerines on Oct. 19 and began packing sunburst tangerines on Oct. 22.
Roe said hot temperatures and heavy rains brought an unfavorable start in September and October, but said the weather changed in late October and was bringing improved quality fruit.
He characterized sunburst quality as strong.
“They’re eating better than they normally do at start up,” Roe said in late October. “The quality is beautiful, and they are absolutely gorgeous.”
Honey tangerines normally begin harvesting in early January and run through late March and early April.
Seald Sweet International began harvesting sunbursts in late October.
Dave Brocksmith, Florida program manager, said the season is bringing smaller sizes.
“There will be 120s, 150s and 100s in the beginning,” he said in late October. “We have tried to get into the marketplace early with bagged promotions, which work well for the smaller fruit.”
Brocksmith said coloring should help the marketability of Florida’s tangerines. He said cooler weather should help speed coloring.
Brocksmith said early season fallglo tangerines possessed high quality and held up very well.
“The quality of the sunbursts is very good,” he said in late October. “It’s just going to depend on how the fruit colors up on the trees.”
Kevin Swords, Florida citrus sales manager for DNE World Fruit Sales, Fort Pierce, characterized this year’s Florida early tangerine crop as one of the best he’s ever seen.
In late October, he said DNE’s growers were transitioning to the sunbursts, the variety which immediately follows the fallglos.
“Quality looks real good on the sunbursts,” Swords said. “They have a nice, bright orange. We expect the quality to be high, from what we see in the field.”
IMG Citrus Inc. began harvesting sunbursts in late October.
Matt Reel, director of sales, said the season is bringing slightly smaller fruit.
While sunbursts typically peak on the 120s, with ample volumes of 100s, this year harvest is bringing 120s and 150s, he said.
“The sunbursts are very good this year,” Reel said. “Typically, we won’t start until the first week of November. We started on Oct. 23, a good week ahead of schedule.”
In late October, Doug Feek, president of DLF International Inc., said tangerines were peaking on the small sizes, 120-150s.
“That means it’s a good time to promote bags,” Feek said. “Demand has been really good on the tangerines, even the fallglos.”
In mid-November, the U.S. Department of Agriculture reported 4/5-bushel cartons of U.S. No. 1 Florida sunburst tangerines in Chicago selling for $28-29 for 64s and 80s; $25.50-26 for 100s; and $24.50 for 120s and 150s.
In mid-November last year, the USDA reported 4/5-bushel cartons of U.S. No. 1 Florida sunburst tangerines in Chicago selling for $28-30 for 80s; $22-24 for 100s, $20-22 for 120s; $18-20 for 150s; $16-18 for 176s; and $16-16.50 for 180s. According to the USDA, cartons 12 3-pound film bags of Florida U.S. No. 1 sunburst 120s fetched $18-20.
In late October, the Dundee Citrus Growers Association was transitioning to the sunbursts.
“Sunburst quality is excellent,” said Al Finch, vice president of sales and marketing for the Dundee-based Florida Classic Growers, Dundee’s marketing arm. “We anticipate having another fantastic year on the sunbursts.”
Finch said last year went well and he expects a smooth transition from the sunbursts to the honey tangerines in late December and early January.
Matt McLean, chief executive officer and founder of Uncle Matt’s Organic Inc., Clermont, called this season an alternate-bearing year, one which sees rebounding production following a lower-producing 2011-12 season.
“We have a good crop of tangerines,” McLean said in late October. “We will be able to hopefully fill our pipelines and our windows and not have any gaps.
“Sometimes it’s difficult to transition from one to the next because you run out of one variety before the other’s ready to start. It should be easy to go from one variety to the next.”
Thanks to a uniform bloom, McLean said the crop possesses a strong, uniform size.