VERO BEACH, Fla. Harvest in Florida"s Indian River grapefruit region began Sept. 30, about two weeks later than normal.

The deal is bringing higher quality fruit than last year, growers say.

"Our test runs show a good season coming on for grapefruit quality," Matt Reel, director of sales for IMG Citrus Inc., said in early October. "In our first runs and tests, we"re seeing 9-plus brix levels already. That"s high."

Florida begins fall grapefruit harvestingTypically, such high brix levels don"t start until mid-November, he said.

IMG"s growers began harvesting in early October and expected to be in heavy volume by mid-October, Reel said.

Riverfront Groves LLC began harvesting Oct. 1.

Dan Richey, chief executive officer, said fruit from the first week of grapefruit harvest will ship to domestic markets in mid-October.

"Quality is good and volume is similar," he said. "We have some early estimates on oranges that show production to be similar to last year."

One of the largest Florida grapefruit packers, Riverfront plans to ship 1.7 million equivalent cartons from 4,000 acres, similar to last year.

Florida"s citrus season usually begins with fallglo tangerines in mid- to late September, followed by grapefruit and navel oranges.