VERO BEACH, Fla. — Florida citrus growers expect a deal marked by a late start and smaller-sized fruit than usual.
Freezing temperatures that struck Florida in January and the continuous cold that ran through February and March caused a later bloom, which delayed this fall’s start of grapefruit, oranges and tangerines.
Buyers should also expect this season to bring smaller-sized fruit across the board.
On grapefruit, Pat Rodgers, president of Greene River Marketing Inc., said late-maturing fruit caused hiccup-like starts and stops in the Indian River season as tests one day showed good maturity and juice, then tests the next day would show the opposite.
Though growers by late October had started harvesting, Rodgers said that disruption has caused a much later than normal deal.
“Though there is some large fruit available now, it’s spotty,” he said in late October. “We still see areas where there are a lot of small fruit in the groves. As we move forward, we will have to find places or parts of the groves or different groves that have the size or let the other fruit grow. There is a tremendous opportunity for consumers to get good value on the smaller fruit, the 48s and 56s reds.”
Kevin Swords, Florida citrus sales manager for DNE World Fruit Sales, Fort Pierce, characterized fruit quality as high.
“Fruit quality both in appearance and condition has been outstanding for the most part,” he said in late October. “The eating quality is also very good.”
Because of the smaller-sized fruit on the early grapefruit deal, Swords said buyers shouldn’t expect to conduct large promotions on the jumbo-sized fruit until after Christmas.
Doug Bournique, executive vice president of the Indian River Citrus League, said this season may turn out to be a golden one.
“Our fruit quality looks good,” he said. “Knock on wood, but we have had great growing conditions and no hurricanes. We have been beaten up, abused and left for dead by Mother Nature year after year. With a little average weather from Mother Nature, this could be a vintage Indian River crop. Now we have one of those so far mythical seasons where Mother Nature is putting out a great crop.”
Quentin Roe, president of Wm. G. Roe & Sons Inc., Winter Haven, said tangerine sizings have been running on the smaller end.
“In general, the specialty citrus crop in Florida this year is a nice, high-quality crop, but bringing smaller sizes than we would like to have,” he said in late October. “But it should be a banner eating year. Internal quality should be exceptional. Consumer satisfaction should be very high.”