Cowan also said late mandarins from Chile and South Africa are much easier peeling with better shelf life and eating quality, while satsuma acid quality is low.
“You don’t have a tang to it that you would normally get off of some of the easy peelers,” he said. “So the sugar content could be high, but if you don’t have any acid in the fruit or very low, it tastes more like colored water than citrus.”
Milne said though satsumas are the leading variety for the Canadian market, there is some concern about their shelf life for the U.S. market after cold treatment.
He also said Peru simply does not have the preferred growing conditions for clementines.
“Their different microclimates don’t afford them the opportunity to grow,” he said, noting the sizing is also smaller on satsumas and clementines.
Marier said Peru is still a small player on navel oranges.
“I think the only thing out of Peru that is still struggling a bit is navels. They don’t have a lot of them,” he said.
“There is a little reluctance to go with the Peruvian navel” because of inconsistent cosmetic quality, Marier said.
“Really and truly, the minneola really is their flagship at this point,” Mixon said of the minneola deal expected to start the first week of July.
“Their minneolas are as good as any minneola grown globally.”
“I think the U.S. is probably the biggest market for their minneola crop,” Cowan said.
Marier said there are small volumes of minneolas from South Africa and Chile, but he agreed that Peru is the market leader.
“Peru has really taken control of the minneola market,” he said.
Cowan said he expects the total crop to be larger than last year, but exports to fill supply needs in Europe, the U.K., Russia and the Middle East.
He also said the minneola is not an item that is featured at supermarkets like clementines because of smaller audiences, but that it accounts for higher gross profits.
“It’s grown tremendously in the last five years,” he said. “It has probably doubled the market from what it was five years ago for minneolas overall between Australia and Peru.”
Cowan warned, however, that the window is not unlimited, noting that in 2008 when Peru shipped 500,000 boxes to the U.S., prices dropped to $10-12 a box.
“Last year, we did much better. F.o.b. sales were $16-17. Growers got a much better return last year,” he said. “It’s not always ‘more fruit is better.’”
Peruvian citrus growers know the U.S. market has high demands for color, internal quality and size. Until now, that has meant Peruvian product has struggled to compete with Chile.