California valencias to kick off in mid-June

06/07/2013 12:39:00 PM
Tom Burfield

Joel NelsentNot all summer citrus is imported.

California growers expect to have a selection of seasonal citrus items available over the next few months, including valencia oranges, grapefruit and a variety of lemons and limes.

This season’s valencia crop is estimated to be 25 million cartons, said Joel Nelsen, president of Exeter-based California Citrus Mutual.

That estimate is down from the 27 million cartons shipped last year because of reduced acreage resulting from competition from offshore imports and a navel season that in past years extended into July, he said.

This year’s bearing acreage is estimated at 39,000 acres, down 1,000 acres from last year.

“Ten years ago, we were shipping fruit off of 57,000 acres,” Nelsen said.

Since growers hold fruit on the tree, Nelsen’s expects the season to slow down in July and August and pick up steam into late August, September and October.

Exports already are moving, and domestic sales should begin in earnest by mid-June, he said.

Booth Ranches, Orange Cove, Calif., expected to finish its navel program by the end of May, about a month sooner than usual, said Tracy Jones, vice president of domestic sales.

Freeze damage was responsible for at least some of the shortfall, she said.

The company started picking good-quality valencias in early April, Jones said.

“The packout has been excellent,” she said in late May. “The brix levels are very good.”

Booth Ranches hopes to make its million-carton valencia deal last through September, she said.

Limoneira Co., Santa Paula, Calif., expects to offer lemons from California, Chile, Argentina and, tentatively, South Africa this summer, said Alex Teague, senior vice president and chief operating officer.

“Right now, supplies out of Southern California are more than sufficient, for the most part,” he said in late May. “Quality is pretty good.”

Lemons grown on the California coast have experienced earlier maturity, so the end of that season in August most likely will include some additional product from Mexico, Chile and South Africa, he said.

He expects volume of the California crop to be 2% to 3% greater than last year, but it was running 20% ahead of schedule with picking volume in January, February and March double what it usually is.

That means volume toward the end of the summer should be half of typical, Teague said.

“We anticipate the offshore fruit being a little bit stronger then.”

The California desert-Arizona crop should be lighter than usual, with earlier sizing.


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