WINTER HAVEN, Fla. — Buyers should expect less availability of Florida tangerines for the rest of this winter.

This season’s crop is showing signs of damage from last season’s freezing temperatures.

A heavier on-tree set for Florida tangerines should produce smaller-sized fruit, shippers said.

Fewer tangerines to mark 2009-10 season

Doug Ohlemeier

Workers pack fallglo tangerines on the packing line at Wm. G. Roe & Sons Inc., Winter Haven, Fla.

Shippers are finding this season’s tangerine crop isn’t producing like usual, particularly the fall sunburst variety which follows the fallglos that end shipments in mid-October.

Doug Feek, president of DLF International Inc., Vero Beach, said last season’s cold weather affected bloom and has harmed tangerine production.

“The sunbursts just aren’t growing like they normally would grow,” he said in late October. “If you have a short crop, normally the sunbursts get big. But for some reason, they’re not. Not only do we have a short crop, now we have a shorter crop of small sizes, which makes it an even shorter crop.”

Though U.S. Department of Agriculture forecasters predicted higher later season honey tangerine volume, Vero Beach-based Seald Sweet International’s senior vice president and chief marketing officer David Mixon said such predictions may not yield fruit.

“Though the honeys have a larger fruit set on the tree, because they’re so small, it will be difficult to see if we actually get some of the fruit making enough size to even be packable because there’s so much fruit on the tree,” he said. “It may not be near the volume projected because it may not be packable due to undersized fruit.”

According to the USDA, 4/5 bushel cartons of Florida fallglo tangerines in Chicago in late October sold for $26 for 48s, $20-22 for 64s, $18-20 for 80s, $16-18 for 100s, $13-14 for 120s, $13 for 150s and $11 for 180s.

By way of comparison, the USDA last year reported 4/5 bushel cartons of Florida fallglo tangerines in Chicago in late October selling for $17-20.50 for 64s, $15.50-18.50 for 80s, $16 for 100s and $12-15 for 150s.

Dave Haller, vice president of sales and marketing for Greene River Marketing Inc., Vero Beach, said sunburst tangerines, which were set to begin pickings by early November, were on the smaller side in terms of sizings.

“But they should pick up some growth as they color up,” he said. “Once they color up, they usually have a growth spurt.”

The increased honey crop should return production to a more normal year, said Al Finch, vice president of sales and marketing for

Diversified Citrus Marketing, the Lake Hamilton-based sales agency that markets for Dundee Citrus Growers Association, Dundee.

During the last couple of years, the groves have produced smaller crops. This season, he said, should be a more normal-bearing year.

Quentin Roe, president of Wm. G. Roe & Sons Inc., said colder than normal weather that struck growing regions in January and

February damaged some groves and thus caused lighter-producing volumes.

“Though there will be some melanose problems, by and large, we are happy with what we’re seeing,” he said.

Melanose is a cosmetic problem that produces small black specks on fruit.

Roe, which began packing fallglo tangerines in early September, follows its fallglo production with robinsons, sunbursts and later, honeys.

Richard Miller, domestic sales manager of Vero Beach-based Premier Citrus Packers Inc., said tangerine demand has been strong during the recent years.

“We have experienced a little more interest,” he said. “It’s a pretty piece of fruit. People are knocking our doors down to get the honeys.”

The fallglo early tangerine crop often overlaps with the start of the sunbursts, which usually run from early November through early January when shippers begin packing honey tangerines.