The U.S. continues to be a significant destination for Peruvian citrus since it became a major importer of the commodity four years ago.
The nations reached that trade status in 2007, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
Last year, Peru"s citrus exports reached a volume of 68,500 metric tons, with 23% (15,677 metric tons) of that shipped to the U.S., said Sergio del Castillo, general manager of the Lima-based nonprofit Citrus Growers Association of Peru, or ProCitrus.
Last year"s shipments of Peruvian fruit to the U.S. valued a total $15.6 million, said Beatriz Tubino, agricultural exports manager, Exporters Association, Lima, Peru.
The main citrus export, tangerines, reached $12.2 million last year, she said.
This year, del Castillo said he expects to see an 8% increase in volume over last year.
Shipments of mandarins to the U.S. began in mid-April, and by late May, 350 metric tons had been sent, del Castillo said.
The average shipment takes three weeks to arrive, and shipments to the U.S. are expected to continue until about early September, del Castillo said.
About 85% of Peruvian citrus exports are grown by the 140 ProCitrus members, who have about 7,000 hectares (about 17,300 acres) of orchards, Del Castillo said.
ProCitrus expects to ship about 750 40-foot containers of citrus, including soft citrus, oranges and limes, to the U.S. this year. The main varieties ProCitrus growers export to the U.S. are minneola tangelos, and mandarins, such as satsumas, clementines, novas and w. murcotts, del Castillo said. ProCitrus also exports navel oranges and limes.
Grower-shipper La Calera, Chincha, Peru, begins its soft citrus exports to the U.S. with satsumas, said Estuardo Masias, owner.
Satsumas help fill the gap between the clementine seasons in California and the Southern Hemisphere, he said. Satsumas are La Calera"s biggest variety, but the company is building its export programs of other types of citrus.
La Calera grows citrus on about 1,400 hectares (about 3,460 acres) of drip-irrigated orchards. Its export division is Prolan, in Lima, and it markets fruit in the U.S. through its import company, Miami-based Andean Sun Produce.
In May and June, Prolan exports La Calera"s oronules, nules, nours and other varieties of clementines.
In May, Masias said La Calera"s volume of clementines was increasing, with additional orchards being planted in anticipation of a bigger U.S. export program.
La Calera"s second-largest citrus crop is the minneola tangerine, which is harvested beginning in July, Masias said. Prolan exports about 2,000 tons of minneolas to the U.S. in a year.
Minneolas are a major part of the Peruvian export program to the U.S., said Mark Greenberg, senior vice president of procurement and chief operating officer, Fisher Capespan, Montreal. The company has an affiliated office in New Jersey and distributes produce from Central and South America throughout the U.S. and Canada.
Fisher Capespan expects to import about the same tonnage of Peruvian citrus this year as it did last year, and expects its first arrivals of minneolas in mid-July, with sales lasting through the end of August or into early September.
In May, Greenberg said he was not yet sure what volume of minneolas would be shipped into the U.S., but he estimated that 250 to 300 containers, or 5,000 to 6,000 tons, would be shipped to various receivers on the East and West coasts.
Greenberg said the Peruvian minneola is a good fruit.
"The product shows bright orange with a nice shape and it"s very sweet and juicy," he said.
Weather conditions caused a larger fruit drop than normal during fruit set for satsumas, Del Castillo said. While that results in lower production, it also typically results in larger fruit sizes. Fruit quality was good in May, and growers had similar expectations for the minneola crop.
David Mixon, senior vice president and chief marketing officer, Seald Sweet International, Vero Beach, Fla., said he expected a good season for minneolas, with good exterior appearance, sizing and color.
Seald Sweet expects to have minneolas available by the third or fourth week of July, with availability through August or early September.
Although minneolas are a good product and the orchards produce good yields, Masias said La Calera is focusing more on w. murcotts.
The variety is La Calera"s most important variety in terms of growth in volume, Macias said. The company currently produces 3,000 tons of w. murcotts, and expects that volume to grow to 17,000 tons within five years.
W. murcott, a late-season mandarin, is another major citrus item imported from Peru, Greenberg said. Like a clementine, it is easy to peel.
Fisher Capespan expects w. murcotts from Peru to begin arriving about the first week of August, with availability through the first or second week of September, Greenberg said.
Seald Sweet International, Vero Beach, Fla., expects to have Peruvian w. murcotts available for four to five weeks beginning in mid-July, Mixon said. They likely will be available before Chile"s crop, so they serve as a good bridge to Chile"s clemengold variety season.
This season"s w. murcott quality should be good with good color and flavor, Mixon said.
"W. murcott shows a great bright orange color, with very powerful flavor, good sugars and good acids with a nice citrus punch," Greenberg said. "It even shows pale orange on the inside of the peel."
Mixon expects Seald Sweet to market about 10% more Peruvian w. murcotts because new trees are coming into production, he said.
As with the early-season satsumas, ProCitrus" w. murcott volume probably will decrease and sizes will be larger, with mostly medium to large fruit, del Castillo said.
In May, Greenberg said he did not yet know what volume to expect this season. More W. Murcott orchards are being planted, so Greenberg said he expects to see increased production over the next few years.
"W. murcotts are highly sought after in other markets," he said.
Peru has well-established citrus export programs with importers in Canada and European countries, where programs existed before the U.S. began allowing Peruvian citrus imports, Greenberg said.
In addition to w. murcotts and minneolas, Fisher Capespan imports navel oranges and seeded murcott honey tangerines from Peru.
Macias planned to stop marketing honey tangerines a few years ago, but he found a new market for it in the U.S., he said.
"We have found that the U.S. loves this variety, and we are now planting more and more," he said. "We just can"t get enough of it."
The murcott honey tangerines are late-season tangerines that are expected to be available from mid-August to late September.
Fisher Capespan focuses its sales of the tangerines on the West Coast, where it has found good distribution, Greenberg said.
Prolan exports La Calera"s honey tangerines to the U.S. in August and September. It also ships some navel oranges and star ruby grapefruit in August and September, but La Calera grows mainly soft citrus.
Navel orange growers in Peru do not focus on the U.S. market because South Africa, Chile and Australia produce good navel oranges that are preferred by U.S. buyers, Greenberg said.
"It eats well and it"s a nice navel orange, but some buyers prefer to stay with traditional suppliers," Greenberg said.
Navel oranges from Peru will be available in light volumes in about early July, with availability continuing through August.