FORT PIERCE, Fla. — This year’s Florida citrus season is making an early exit.
Grower-shippers say they expect the season, which started nearly a month earlier than usual in the fall, to finish three weeks earlier on most varieties.
An earlier spring 2011 bloom accelerated maturities on grapefruit and tangerines.
The season, which typically runs through mid- to late May, should end in April on grapefruit and late March on tangerines, said Kevin Swords, Florida citrus sales manager for DNE World Fruit Sales.
Late-season valencias, which weren’t as affected by the spring bloom, should finish shipments in late May, he said.
Swords characterized the season as producing high-quality fruit.
“Everything is eating well,” he said in late February.
“The eating quality is excellent, especially on the grapefruit side of things. That will continue until the season ends.”
Swords also said the season is bringing larger grapefruit sizings. He said the larger sizings are yielding more 23s and 27s and should make for more retail promotional opportunities on the bulk or larger bagged grapefruit.
At the Atlanta terminal market, 4/5-bushel cartons of 27-size white grapefruit were pricing at $13 on Feb. 25, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
The harvest also is producing “very clean packings” of valencias that are receiving favorable response. He said the valencia season is running as normal and buyers should expect plenty of oranges until the season’s end, which typically runs through late May.
Duda Farm Fresh Foods Inc., the fresh division of Oviedo-based A. Duda & Sons Inc., began harvesting its valencias in mid-February.
“The valencias look very nice,” Jason Bedsole, sales manager of Eastern vegetables and citrus, said in late February.
“They’re producing a quality piece of fruit. Demand and quality are very good.”
Bedsole said honey tangerines and grapefruit also remain strong and buyers should expect high quality for both.
He said those varieties have a strong appearance and high movement.
DNE’s Swords said buyers should look for supplies of honey tangerines through the end of March.
Honey tangerines were selling at $18.50-19.50 for 80s at the Atlanta terminal market on Feb. 25, the USDA reported.
“There are enough supplies on a weekly basis to cover everyday needs,” Swords said.
“Retailers may not be able to promote them as heavily as in prior years, but they will still have enough for regular sales.”
Tangerine shipments typically end in late April.