Grower-shippers began harvesting in late September and increased volume since then.
Al Finch, vice president of sales and marketing for Florida Classic Growers, the marketing arm of the Dundee Citrus Growers Association, said retailers have scheduled December promotions for 4- and 8-pound bagged navels.
“Quality has been good,” he said in early November. “The internal and external quality has been excellent, and sizing has been running on the normal sizes. This has been a traditional season, but it should be an outstanding year for navels.”
The ending of the offshore deal in late October helped boost trade interest in promoting Florida’s navels, Finch said.
When Florida growers harvested from larger navel acreage, volume typically ran past Christmas.
Today, most growers try to finish by Christmas, said Russell Kiger, sales manager of DLF International Inc., Vero Beach.
“This year, the navels are a very good-looking crop overall,” Kiger said in early November. “The flavor’s very good on them early. They have good size and strong flavor. Everything’s good about them this year.”
A small number of growers usually pack navels after Jan. 1, but the deal won’t bring the heavy volume it normally ships during the latter part of the year, said Dave Brocksmith, Florida citrus manager for Vero Beach-based Seald Sweet International.
The November fundraising business helps drive sales, he said.
“The quality this year is excellent,” Brocksmith said in early November. “It has good acids and good sugars, which make it a fine eating piece of fruit.”
Sizing is large this year, Brocksmith said.
He said navels are peaking on the 64s, 56s and 80s in respective volume.
Because of later running imports, Florida grower-shippers missed the deal’s early window, said Kevin Swords, Florida citrus sales manager for DNE World Fruit Sales in Fort Pierce.
He said imported fruit remained heavy in key Northeast supermarkets in mid-November.
“The navel situation has been tough,” Swords said. “And with California starting early we have lost a lot of marketing opportunities. We have had several customers that went from imports to California. It has made it a challenge as far as promotions.”
Typically, California begins volumes in mid-November. This year, however, it began strong shipments in mid-October, Swords said.
Swords characterized eating quality as good and said the season is bringing more medium sizes, which Swords said is more compatible with demand.
He said color was maturing and retailers should find adequate volume for promotions.
After navels finish harvesting in late December, a variety of midseason oranges help keep movement going until the late season valencias begin harvesting in late February and March.
Hamlins, pineapples and valencias are the juice oranges or the varieties consumers us to make fresh juice.
Hamlins run through early January and temples start in mid-January and harvest through mid-February.
Florida Classic’s Finch said the hamlins look strong and are producing sizes peaking on the 125s and 100s, making them suitable for 4-pound bag promotions.
Temples typically begin harvesting in January.
“We always have nice temples,” said Matt Reel, director of sales for IMG Citrus Inc., Vero Beach. “Though the variety has been around for a long time, the temples are good for retailers that want to do something different. They’re a good product retailers like to promote from mid-January through mid-February.”
Reel said temple demand went well last season.
Though it’s too early to discuss what this year’s valencia crop could bring, DLF’s Kiger said growers expect a favorable season.
Kiger said strong juice demand helps keep prices a little higher than in the past. Fresh shippers must often battle cannery buyers for fruit, he said.
IMG’s Reel said the juice oranges are seeing increased demand.
More shoppers and retailers are getting into fresh squeezing, he said.
In mid-November, the U.S. Department of Agriculture reported these prices for 4/5-bushel cartons of U.S. No. 1 Florida navels arriving in Boston: $19 for 40s, 48s, 56s, 64s and 80s.
Last year in early November, the USDA reported Florida navels in Boston selling at $22 for 36s, 40s, 48s and 80s; $20-21 for 56s and $20 for 64s.