In late October, he said DNE’s growers were just starting to begin strong harvesting volume to where DNE could better supply its retail customers.
Yes, the industry has the challenge of moving smaller-sized fruit early. Growers, however, will have to spot-pick groves twice this season to minimize picking much small fruit and run out of the sized fruit during the latter half of the season, he said.
“It’s going to be a challenge, but we have been down this road before, and the good thing is it will allow us to have grapefruit through all of May,” Swords said.
Indian River growers during the last couple of seasons have finished earlier than normal in April. The later start should allow shippers to supply their retail customers longer, shippers said.
Because of the smaller sizings, Swords said retailers should look to promote smaller sizes in different size bags, such as 3-pound bags.
Paul Genke, director of sales and marketing for The Packers of Indian River Ltd., Fort Pierce, said production should be similar to last season, which featured a variety of sizes.
As fruit ran through the season last year, he said it fit the markets perfectly.
Genke said grapefruit grown in the grower-shipper’s Gulf Coast region in southwest Florida has the same sizing structure as the Indian River region.
“A lot of people think the bloom was later, and it was, but it was prolonged and stretched the deal out,” Genke said in late October. “We still have a lot of areas where the maturity isn’t there.”
Riverfront Groves LLC planned to begin shipping fruit to Japan in earnest in early November, three weeks later than last season, said Dan Richey, chief executive officer.
“This wasn’t the year to have a late start because this is a year when we have opportunity because inventories are very low in Europe and Japan,” he said. “It’s unfortunate because the customers are really desiring our fruit.”
Richey said this season’s forecast of 20.3 million 4/5-bushel cartons should prove a highly manageable crop for retailers and consumers.
According to the USDA, this season’s 20.3 million boxes, which consists of 6 million boxes of white and 14.3 million boxes of red, is 1% smaller than last season’s 21.7 million cartons.
Riverfront plans to ship 1.7 million 4/5-bushel cartons, similar to last year.
Most of Riverfront’s production ships to export customers.
In late October, Matt Kastensmidt, national sales manager for IMG Citrus Inc., said the deal so far has worked well.
“Large fruit is slim and nil, peaking on 40s-48s,” he said. “Promotable volumes in 3- and 5-pound bags are where we can use that fruit. I think it will continue to size as we go through the season. We definitely need some rain to help that along.”