VERO BEACH, Fla. — While grower-shippers had begun light harvesting in mid-October, shipments of this fall’s Florida tangerines, grapefruit and oranges began a week to 10 days later than normal.
The delay, caused by a later spring bloom affected by winter freezes, brought lighter supplies to the front end of Florida’s season, which opened with stronger than normal prices.
DNE World Fruit Sales, Fort Pierce, began light shipments of fallglo tangerines, navel oranges and ambersweet oranges in early October.
Kevin Swords, Florida citrus sales manager, called the fall growing season ideal.
He said DNE was testing maturities of grapefruit, which it planned to begin harvesting in late October.
“The fruit will be a little smaller starting out,” he said in mid-October. “That will entail managing the crop properly, meaning the need to go spot pick a couple of times and try to manager our days that way vs. just going in and grabbing a bunch of business and before you know it, we’re out of fruit come January.”
Though buyers should expect grapefruit to begin shipments with small sizings, Swords said retailers should be able to promote grapefruit as usual in November and December.
A later California start in early November should also provide Florida shippers a good opportunity to promote navels, which ship primarily fresh.
“The main thing is we have a normal crop (of navels),” Swords said. “It was down quite a bit last year. We are excited to get some promotions under our belts.”
Because of an expected later start of California and imported clementines, Swords said Florida shippers should have a good promotional window for sunburst tangerines.
Normally, Florida shippers have to wait until Thanksgiving to promote the tangerines that follow fallglo tangerines, but this season, Swords said shippers should be able to run promotions during the first and second weeks of November.
Pat Rodgers, president of Greene River Marketing Inc., agreed that grapefruit sizings are smaller.
“The fruit size is not that big,” he said. “Last year, we were plagued by smaller sizes. We should have the same issues this year except for certain areas and certain pockets that have larger fruit.”
Rodgers called last season an excellent season that brought high quality.
He said he sees no reason why this season should not bring similar quality.
Matt Kastensmidt, national sales manager for IMG Citrus Inc., said navels should return to normal production levels after being down 20% last season.
Following a lighter crop, the trees this season have returned to normal, Kastensmidt said.
He called early October grapefruit prices favorable.
A later California start in early November should give Florida shippers opportunities to promote navel oranges, which ship primarily fresh.
“Customers are saying there’s not a lot of good quality left in California,” he said. “So we are coming into an open market in grapefruit. All the customers are ready to get their season started with Florida grapefruit.”
Kastensmidt said the market in late September struggled with some rough-looking varieties of fallglos and ambersweets.
He called quality of early Florida shipments nice.
Jason Bedsole, sales manager of Eastern vegetables and citrus for Duda Farm Fresh Foods Inc., the fresh division of Oviedo-based A. Duda & Sons Inc., said buyers should expect to see a small increase in pricing on tangerines.
“Sizing may be off but otherwise, everything is good this season,” he said in mid-October. “Though sizing is a little off on the sunbursts, the honeys look to have a normal to average sizing. This was primarily influenced by last season’s colder weather.”
Duda, which packs primarily from Peace River Packing in the central part of the state, began packing tangerines in mid-October with grapefruit and navels following later in October.