( Courtesy Chilean Fresh Fruit Association )

Chile will export a little less citrus this year, compared to 2018, due primarily to an 18% dip in clementine volume, according to the San Carlos, Calif.-based Chilean Citrus Committee.

According to the committee’s updated forecast for export volume, which it released at the end of June, navel and clementine volumes will be down. 

Total export volume across the entire citrus category is tabbed at 339,000 tons, or about 5% less than last year’s 358,000 tons.

Citrus season in Chile typically runs from early June to late September or early October, with inventory typically stretching the deal into mid- or late October or, some years, into November, marketers said.

Clementines lead off the deal in early June, and lemons follow, beginning at the end of June or early July. Navels then start to arrive in mid-July, and W. Murcotts start the mandarin shipments in early August. 

Timing a bit late

Overall, the Chilean citrus deal got underway a bit late, said Mark Greenberg, president and CEO of St. Laurent, Quebec-based Capespan North America LLC.

“The 2019 Chilean citrus shipping season started later than in previous years on both soft citrus and navel oranges but is making up the shortfall with heavy loadings in the last few weeks,” Greenberg said June 28. 

The later start “is probably not a bad thing,” since U.S.-grown oranges and easy peelers remained available in the market longer than they had in 2018, and the Chilean product would “catch up on volume” in early July, Greenberg said.

Clementines down

Clementine export volume likely will have the greatest year-on-year decrease, falling by 18% to 52,000 tons from the year-ago total of 63,198 tons, said Karen Brux, managing director of the citrus committee, which handles North American promotions for the Chilean Fresh Fruit Association.

“This is due in great part to a larger volume of small-sized fruit that is not being exported to North America, due to preference for larger fruit,” she said. 

“The overall trend for Chilean clementine volume is incredibly positive.”

Brux noted that clementine shipments still will surpass the 2017 total of 40,687 tons by 28%.

Mandarins — Chile’s largest citrus category by volume — are forecast at 105,000 tons, or down 2% from last year’s 107,337, the committee reported.

“For mandarins, w. murcott still represents the majority of the category, but the tango and orri varieties are growing exponentially,” Brux said. “Tango is an appealing variety for growers because it’s slightly earlier than w. murcott.”

She said tango volume grew by 118% from 2017-18, and orri by nearly 240%.  

“There are a few other new varieties in the pipeline that we’ll be hearing about in the future,” Brux said. “Research and development is crucial for the continued growth of the Chilean citrus industry.”

Greenberg said there were some doubts about forecasts of fewer mandarins from Chile this year.

“There is skepticism in some quarters as to whether this will actually come to pass,” he said. “More late mandarin acreage is coming into production, and some believe it will be sufficient to compensate for lower expected yields. On navel oranges, the expected lower production is more credible. Weather will also play a role in the final numbers.”

Fewer navels

The committee is forecasting a navel export volume of 92,000 tons, down 8% from 99,556 tons in 2018.

“It looks like crop volume seems to be OK on the navel side,” said Mike Asdoorian, who works in sales and procurement with Long Beach, Calif.-based DLJ Produce. “Everything seems to look to be relatively mimicking crop volume on navels last year.”

He said that would translate into a “pretty normal” output.

“Quality should be really nice, with good sugar content,” Asdoorian said of the navel crop. 
Weather has cooperated, Asdoorian said.

“There were threats of a sizable freeze (in late June), but I don’t think the temperatures got anywhere near as low as they thought they would,” he said.

Growing conditions have permitted good fruit sizing and quality, Asdoorian said.

Fruit sizing will be in the “normal” range – “72s, 88s and some 56s,” he said.

Cara caras are “a relatively new” navel variety in Chile but are catching on quickly with growers, with about 370 acres of production this year, Brux said.

“Cara cara accounts for less than 5% of all navels, but strong demand has resulted in more growers jumping onboard,” Brux said, adding that cara cara volume jumped from only 1,400 boxes in 2017 to 43,000 last year.

More lemons

Chile will export more lemons this year — 90,000 tons, up 2% from last year’s 88,361, the committee predicted.

“From growing conditions for lemons, everything seems to be normal — sizing seems more 140s, 115s or mid-sizes, to make it more generic,” said John Carter, vice president of global sales with Santa Paula, Calif.-based Limoneira Co. 

“The tree is producing everything, from small to big lemons.”