One thing importers of South African fruit can always count on, Flores said, is that shippers won’t rush shipments just to extend their marketing opportunities.
“They’ll wait for the quality to be ideal,” she said. “South African growers have always done a really good job of protecting the integrity of their fruit. They don’t want to send anything to market prematurely.”
Seald Sweet will likely ship South African citrus into mid- to late October, though there have been seasons where product was available in November, Flores said.
As of mid-April, the weather in the Western Cape growing region of South Africa has been ideal, with ample rainfall and warm days and nights, said Tom Cowan, South African sales manager for Fort Pierce, Fla.-based DNE World Fruit Sales.
The onset of cooler weather in April should help fruit color and improve its taste, Cowan said.
“The internal quality looks very good, with the sugars running high and acids at desirable levels for this point in the season,” he said.
South African clementines will likely peak on 2s and 3s this season, Cowan said. Navels are expected to be slightly smaller than normal, with fruit peaking on 64s, 72s and 88s.
DNE expects its first shipments of clementines in early June, Cowan said. Clementines from South Africa were maturing one or two weeks earlier than usual as of mid-April, Cowan said.
About 3.8 million cartons of South African clementines are expected in the U.S. this season, up from 2.2 million cartons in 2011, Cowan said.
Clementines will ship through about mid-August, to be followed by late-season mandarins, which should ship through October.
South African navels should begin arriving in mid-June and ship through most of September, Cowan said. DNE expects midknights to ship from about late September to mid-November.