More summer Chilean clementine and mandarin volume is on tap for U.S. consumers this year.
The Chilean Citrus Committee estimates total clementine citrus exports from Chile in 2018 at 52,000 metric tons, up 27% from 41,000 metric tons in 2017. Projected clementine exports for 2018 are about double exports in 2014.
Meanwhile, exports of Chilean mandarins for 2018 have been projected at 100,000 metric tons, up 32% from 76,000 metric tons in 2017. This year’s projected exports of mandarins are up more than three times 2014 exports of 30,000 metric tons.
The Chilean Citrus Committee said Chilean clementines will be available from mid-May to mid-August mainly, while mandarins will be available from August to mid-November.
Growers in Chile expect an increase from northern growing areas, as an increase in rainfall in the past year and expanding acreage has boosted crop prospects by about 20% compared with last year, said Tony Liberto, import citrus manager with Reedley, Calif.-based Dayka & Hackett.
“We are going to have a lot of fruit in June,” he said.
Heavier volume the first week of June will be followed by peak clementine volume in late June and early July. Murcott mandarin volume will peak in late September and into to October, he said.
Easy peelers from Chile and other Southern Hemisphere suppliers are usually classified in two groups: the clementines in the early season and the murcott, tango or other varieties in the later part of the season, said Peter Anderson, New Jersey-based category manager for Seald Sweet International.
In general, he said the early part of the easy-peeler Southern Hemisphere deal, the clementines, has not been growing as fast as the later season murcott and tango varieties.
Plantings of murcott and tango mandarins have been increasing over the past five or six years in Chile, Anderson said.
Those varieties have increased threefold over the past four years, and grew 25% to 30% last year, he said.
“We expect the same kind of growth this year,” he said.
Chile controls the biggest share of U.S. summer easy peeler imports, according to 2017 trade statistics.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture reported that U.S. imports of Chilean tangerines and mandarins totaled 109,752 metrics tons in 2017, compared with 49,442 metric tons from Peru, 17,010 metric tons from Uruguay and 10,762 metric tons from South Africa.
Season so far
Chilean exports of clementines began the week of April 2, one week ahead of the 2017 season, with about 1,440 boxes (21,600 metric tons) of oronules destined for the U.S.
Through late April, harvest had been mainly in the Coquimbo region, though some early orchards of the Valparaiso region have also begun picking. The main harvested varieties have been oronules and clemenules, followed with more limited volumes of orogrande.
Through April 23, Chile had exported 89,358 boxes (1,427 metric tons), down 17% from the same date of 2017.
The advertising work by Sun Pacific for Cuties and Wonderful Brands for Halos has helped propel the easy peeler category in the summer, Anderson said.
“Branding has been good for the commodity because it has increased consumption and helped increase the category,” he said.
Even brands that don’t have the heft of Halos and Cuties find strong consumer demand, he said.
“There is not enough of the fruit around yet for (buyers) to be that particular (for a brand),” he said.
While Halos and Cuties may command 85% to 90% of the market in the winter, that percentage is considerably less in the summer months, he said.
The consumer friendly 3-pound and 2-pound packages have also helped drive consumer sales, he said. More than nine out of 10 Chilean Seald Sweet clementines are packed in 3-pound bags, he said.
Counting supply from South Africa, Chile, Uruguay and Peru, Anderson said shipments of easy peelers to the U.S. have grown from 111,000 metric tons in 2015 to 141,0000 metric tons in 2016 and 183,000 metric tons in 2017. For 2018, he said combined volume from those Southern Hemisphere suppliers is projected at 230,000 metric tons.
Imports of Chilean clementines experienced very stable pricing last year, according to U.S. Department of Agriculture statistics.
Chilean clementines are typically packed in 15-kilogram cartons, with the 10 3-pound bags or 15 2-pound bags the prevailing pack styles.
“The three-pound bag is the most popular, as it allows retail prices to remain in a more attractive range,” said Mark Carmel, director of corporate communications for The Wonderful Co., Los Angeles.
Prices for counter-seasonal easy peelers can reach up to 35% higher than the winter season, he said.
Shipping point prices in Philadelphia for size 28 Chilean clementines in cartons of 10 3-pound mesh bags started May 27 last year in a range of $32-36 per carton and traded from $32-38 through the end of July.
Those price levels in 2017 were up from 2016, when the U.S. Department of Agriculture reported that Chilean size 28 clementines in cartons of 10 3-pound mesh bags were priced in Philadelphia at $37-38 per carton on June 11 and then dropped to $28-34 per carton on July 2 and $22-28 per carton July 30 before rising to $28-32 by Aug. 20.