Lower Florida citrus volume expected

11/13/2009 04:10:00 PM

Seald Sweet’s growers, like others in the industry, by mid-October had started picking all varieties.

Shippers begin packing navels in early and mid-October.

Shipments usually run through the end of December before the late season valencias begin production in late January and early February.

Freezing temperatures that struck growing regions during January and February knocked a lot of fruit buds off the trees in the central growing areas, thus making navels set a much lighter crop than normal.

The navel deal could be up to 25% shorter than last season, sources said.

Pat Rodgers, president of Greene River Marketing Inc., agreed the deal should see smaller overall volume.

“Some groves have a nice crop on them, but the fruit is a little smaller, so it equates to less total boxes,” he said. “In other areas, the crops are a little lighter and the fruit is bigger but it also equates to fewer boxes.”

Greene River this season plans to pack up to 1.9 million cartons of grapefruit, oranges and tangerines.

Saying  packed and disinfected fresh citrus fruit isn’t an epidemiologically significant pathway for the introduction and the spread of the citrus canker disease, the USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service on Oct. 22 reopened the California, Arizona and
Texas markets to shipments of fresh Florida grapefruit, oranges and tangerines.  

Shippers said the lifting of the ban would help movement to the large consumer markets found in the citrus-producing states.

“We have already had calls on the issue,” said Kevin Swords, Florida citrus sales manager for DNE World Fruit Sales, the Fort Pierce-based marketer that packs and sells for 10 Florida packinghouses. “We are very excited to have another market to go to on all varieties, but especially the tangerines.”

During the precanker years, Florida sent 12% to 15% of its sunbursts and up to 20% of its honeys to the two large consumer markets.

Richard Miller, domestic sales manager of Premier Citrus Packers Inc., said a stronger process market should help strengthen growers’ incomes.

“The cannery prices are higher on grapefruit and oranges this year,” he said. “With grapefruit juice inventories so low, the process market will give us a better option if we can’t get it in the box with the grade we need.”

Matt Kastensmidt, national sales manager for IMG Citrus Inc., agreed that a stronger juice deal should benefit fresh shippers.

“We expect stronger prices this year because of lower supply,” he said. “With juice inventories down, it should lead to stronger pricing this season for packinghouse eliminations.”



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