California citrus growers anticipate a good-quality crop this fall, with early sizing a bit larger than last year.

“We’re generally pleased with how the fruit is growing so far,” Joel Nelsen, strategic adviser for Exeter-based California Citrus Mutual, said in mid-August.

The season should get underway by the second or third week of October.

David White, owner of Trinity Fruit Sales Co. Inc., Fresno, Calif., said he anticipated a stronger start to the mandarin season this year.

“We don’t think we’ll see the import volumes putting pressure on the beginning of the California deal like it did last year,” White said.

White said the mandarin crop could be off a bit compared with the heavy crop last year but still have plenty of fruit for the market.

So far, weather has been better this summer than last, Nelsen said.

Last July and August, the growing area had a “tremendous number” of 100-degree-plus days, Nelsen said, which stifled fruit growth.

“This year, fruit sizing seems to be coming along better,” he said.

Although huanglongbing, also known as citrus greening, has been found in backyard trees in the southern part of the state, it has not been found in the north, where commercial groves are planted.

Nelsen said he was not aware of the status of the mandarin crop, but he said more lemon trees should be coming into production in the San Joaquin Valley to help deal with a demand-exceeds-supply situation.

He expected more lemon tonnage during October, November and December.

This year’s large valencia orange crop should be harvesting until October, probably overlapping with early navels, he said.

“Valencias are not a hot item right now,” he said, because they’re competing with a plethora of other summer fruit options.

No official forecast has been made yet, but navel orange volume is expected to be less during the coming year than last year, and that should be good news for growers, who had to cope with an oversupply situation.

“Growers did not make money last year for a variety of reasons,” Nelsen said. “The revenue on a per acre basis was terrible.”

The 2019-20 season could be challenging as well.

“We’re going to counsel the industry not to plan on export opportunities into China,” Nelsen said.

Citrus Mutual will be working with the U.S. Department of Agriculture with the hope of creating more effective market stimulation programs, he said.

“Last year’s trade mitigation package just didn’t work,” Nelsen said.

Tom Karst contributed to this story.

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