HOMESTEAD, Fla. — Florida is a leading producer of tropical fruits and vegetables.

While south Florida may be better known for its green-skinned avocados, growers in the Redlands growing region also produce smaller volumes of tropicals such as boniato, star fruit, mamey sapote, passion fruit and kumquats.

Florida’s avocado season typically begins winding down in the fall.

Shipments normally start in June and hit peak volume in July with volumes starting to decline in November, with July, August, September and October producing the most volume.

South Florida supplies fall tropicals

Courtesy Brooks Tropicals

Shipments of green-skinned avocados begin to decrease in November. “With our SlimCados, we’re past the peak of the season, but we have a nice crop of late-season fruit to get us through December,”
says Mary Ostlund, director of marketing for Brooks Tropicals Inc.

Mary Ostlund, director of marketing for Brooks Tropicals Inc., said the late season fruit possesses strong quality.

“With our SlimCados, we’re past the peak of the season, but we have a nice crop of late season fruit to get us through December,” she said in mid-October. “We will go into February with lighter volumes. We really see the late season crop not as affected by the cold weather of the 2009-10 season than the other varieties, but it’s always a lighter crop during that time of the year.”

The leading Florida avocado grower-shipper, Brooks expects to ship more than 400,000 bushels, down from last season.

J&C Enterprises Inc., Miami, plans to ship fruit through March, though at considerably smaller volumes, said Peter Leifermann, tropical sales and category manager.

Because of colder weather during the winter and spring, he said the industry this season would be lucky if it could ship 850,000 bushels, 25% off from last year’s 1 million bushels, more typical of season production.

Leifermann said fewer acres of late season varieties mean the industry produces smaller volume November through March.

“Add to that a year like this year where supply is down, and you have much less supply available for the marketplace,” he said in mid-October. “We will see demand exceeding supply for the most part from here on out.”

Other tropicals
During the fall and winter, south Florida is a major grower and supplier of a variety of comparatively small volumes of fall tropical items.

Harvesting of star fruit or carambola normally begins in early July and runs through March.

The colder winter made for a later start this season, Ostlund said.

J&C plans to ship promotable volumes through January with smaller volumes shipping in February and March, Leifermann said.

“We won’t see as much promotable volume in February and March as we have in the past,” Leifer
g growth,” she said.

On mamey sapote, fall typically brings a winding down of production.

Two principal varieties, magana and pantin — also known as Key West — run January through May and June through October, respectively.

As the fruit is on an 18-month cycle, Leifermann said the magana fruit harvested in the winter will typically be much smaller in quantity than the previous season because of young fruit on the tree and many droppings experienced during the January cold snap.

Buyers, therefore, should expect fewer fruit, he said.

Last winter’s cold cut volumes, Ostlund said.

Passion fruit also took a big hit from the cold.

Because of the cold, which destroyed all but one of the plantings, the deal this season didn’t see any of its typical June or September peaks, Leifermann said

He said growers have been shy of volume, but he said he expects volume to return in November with a December peak bringing promotable volume before the crop returns to its regular cycle.

Leifermann said he expects fruit to be shipped through February.

For kumquats, Ostlund said Brooks expects to begin shipments in mid-November.

The crop looks strong and remains on time, she said.

Ostlund said Brooks plans to ship through March.

Leifermann said the crop — grown in the Dade City area north of Plant City— has recovered from a 50% winter loss. Though fruit was lost, trees didn’t sustain severe damage.

He said he expected fruit — which typically begins shipments in mid-November and runs through mid-March — to enter the market only a week later than normal.

Though available throughout the year, cooler fall and winter temperatures and less sunlight caused smaller production of red-fleshed varieties of guava and white-fleshed Thai guava.

Shipments normally begin declining in October and November before resuming spring production in April and May.

J&C, which also grows and packs sour oranges and sugarcane, usually packs about a third of south Florida’s estimated 4 million equivalent cartons of tropicals excluding avocados.