Joel Nelsen
Joel Nelsen

tNot 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.

“We’ll be able to start in earnest in September,” he said, with a small gap with domestic lemons in August.

“Fruit sizing is a bit smaller this year due to the lack of rain and other conditions,” said Joan Wickham, manager of advertising and public relations for Sunkist Growers Inc., Sherman Oaks, Calif.

Sunkist expects to ship organic and conventional valencia oranges through early November.

The co-op should have organic and conventional star ruby grapefruit through July and summer marsh ruby grapefruit from late June through early October.

In the lemon category, Sunkist expects to have conventional and organic Eureka and Lisbon lemons and meyer lemons, all of which are available year-round.

Limited quantities of Zebra pink variegated lemons also are available year-round, and Sunkist has limited volume of seedless lemons at various times of the year.

Persian limes and key limes are available year-round.

Industrywide, lemon production increased in 2013 over 2012.

“The increase is primarily due to a recovery of the Arizona crop that was subject to a freeze between 2011 and 2012,” she said.