Late start and smaller sizes characterize Florida citrus season

11/10/2010 10:12:27 AM
Doug Ohlemeier

Al Finch, vice president of sales and marketing for Florida Classic Growers, Lake Hamilton, the marketing arm of the Dundee Citrus Growers Association, said quality looks good for all the varieties though he expects a small overall increase in volume.

Buyers should expect smaller sizings on the sunburst tangerines, which normally begin shipments in mid-November.

“Because of the drought conditions we have been having this season, the sunburst varieties will be considerably smaller this season,” Finch said in mid-October. “We will be promoting bags with 180s and 150s, the smaller sizes. The larger sizes will be very scarce.”

Lower temperatures have helped color up the navel oranges, said Scott George, vice president of sales and marketing for DLF International Inc.

As the season progresses, some of the major chains usually shift their navels purchasing to California.

“When California starts, the people we serve in the South and the East, and the Northeast along the shoreline, they will stay with Florida,” George said. “They seem to focus on Florida. The California fruit is very attractive, so that plays a part in the shift. The southeastern and northeastern chains usually stick with us all the way through Christmas. Some a little sooner than that will go into California fruit.”

DLF expects to ship 1.5 million equivalent cartons this season, up from the 1.2 million it shipped last year.

Richard Miller, domestic sales manager of Premier Citrus Packers Inc., said the fall typically brings strong retailer interest in Florida fruit.

He said retailers get into their programs and begin switching to Florida fruit in late October.

“We are very happy with the quality overall,” Miller said in late October. “We like the crop. It looks very good.”

The strong quality, Miller said, follows the nice, even bloom that came from a cooler-than-normal spring.

The deal didn’t experience frequent hot and cold periods where a tree might bloom four to five different times.

Instead, the colder weather produced a nice, smooth piece of fruit with good shape, he said.

Kelly Marinaro, owner of Sunny Fresh Citrus, Vero Beach, doesn’t have fond memories of last season’s grapefruit deal.

“Many houses have to buy most of or a high percentage of their fruit,” he said. “Last year, the fruit that was purchased during the latter part of the packing season was eliminated by the weather. The people in the fresh business suffered some enormous production reductions. So the profit margins were thinner or nonexistent.”

While only 4% of Florida’s overall orange crop goes to the fresh market, about 40% of Florida’s grapefruit and 70% of its navel oranges and tangerines ship to fresh-market channels.


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