California’s navel orange crop was expected to wind down earlier this season than the past couple of years because of the smaller crop, said Bob Blakely vice president of Exeter-based California Citrus Mutual.

Navels are not expected to continue past June.

Growers already were exporting some valencia oranges, which should be available domestically after the navel crop is finished.

“Even then, most of them go to foodservice or the schools,” Blakely said.

Consumers don’t favor valencias as much as they used to, he said.

That’s due in part to increased availability of Southern Hemisphere navels.

“That’s really cut into the valencia deal,” he said.

That’s not to say there is no market for valencias.

“Growers who have them and have good quality are still making money with them,” he said.

The navels should continue fairly strong until warm weather hits.

“As fruit starts getting more mature, it’s not going to handle hot weather as well,” he said.

As of mid-April, however, weather had been “really mild,” he said.

“Shippers have been doing a very good job of sorting the fruit and putting out a high-quality product,” Blakely said.

About 75% of the navel crop had been picked by early April.

Citrus demand has been very strong all season for Valencia, Calif.-based Sunkist Growers Inc., said Joan Wickham, director of communications.

“We anticipate that demand to continue during the summer months when California oranges, grapefruit and lemons are available,” she said.

The company also has seen “tremendous growth” in organic demand, she said, and expects that growth to continue through the summer months.

Sunkist has developed on-trend fresh lemonade, juicing, salad dressing and marinade recipes to encourage seasonal demand and usage, Wickham said.

“We also offer retailers tools to encourage purchase during the summertime with displays, point-of-sale-material and digital content to inspire consumers to freshen summer routines with fresh citrus,” she added.

Santa Paula, Calif.-based Limoneira Co. has moved its lemon harvest from the San Joaquin Valley to the Central Coast, said John Chamberlain, director of marketing.

“Although rains were heavy and delayed getting fruit off trees, there have been some upsides such as experiencing good size structure with larger fruit,” he said.

 
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