One variety's up, one's down, but the net should be an increase in exports of Chilean easy-peelers to the U.S. this summer, said Karen Brux, president of the San Carlos, Calif.-based Chilean Fresh Fruit Association.
"Clementine volume will be down, but mandarin volume will be up. And mandarin volumes are expected to increase by 44%, so we"re expecting an overall lift in total volume."
Water shortages in northern Chile this season are responsible for the drop in clementine production, Brux said. Exports to the U.S. will likely drop about 10% to 23,638 tons.
In central Chile, however, clementine volumes will be up, offsetting somewhat the lower production in the north.
Clementine sizing will be smaller this season, also due to water shortages in the Coquimbo region north of Santiago. Color is good, however, and fruit has very good sugar to acid rations, Brux said.
"I've been picking them off the trees nonstop over the past three days, and they're tasting great," Brux said May 13.
Chilean clementines were shipping on average about two weeks later than normal, thanks again to the water shortages, which has made it difficult for fruit to size.
"Shipments are picking up, but to date, volume shipped is about 55% lower than the same week of 2014," Brux said May 13. "Harvesting has now spread from the Coquimbo region to the Valparaiso and Metropolitan regions, so shipments will continue to increase."
Chile faces competition on clementines from Peru, Uruguay and South Africa in the summer, but Chile still accounts for more than half of all imports between May and October, Brux said.
"Chile has a strong reputation for its clementines, and a solid retail following."
Brux expects another year of brisk movement.
"We anticipate demand to be very strong for Chilean clementines. Retailers appreciate consistent, high quality supply and Chile provides that with its easy-peelers."
Retailers also like Chile's long season, Brux said. Clementines are expected to ship from May through August and murcott and other mandarin varieties from August through October.
The Santiago-based Chilean Citrus Committee plans another aggressive season of marketing, including in-store demos, merchandising contests and sales incentive programs.
In addition to point-of-sale cards and other materials, the committee is able to customize materials for individual retailers depending on their needs, Brux said.
"Whether it's usage ideas to post on their Facebook page, short videos from Chilean orchards, or online contests, we're ready to work with retailers to get the word out about Chilean clementines."