Cara-cara navels ( Courtesy Sunkist Growers )

California growers are expected to produce 80 million cartons of navel oranges during the 2018-19 season, according to estimates from the U.S. Department of Agriculture. That’s an 11% increase over last year.

Cecelia Packing Corp., Orange Cove, Calif., expects to see a 10% increase on navel orange volume this year compared to last year, said sales manager Randy Jacobson.

But even though there’s a lot of fruit on the trees, fruit size is relatively small this season on all citrus varieties, he said.

A few unusually cold nights in December did not cause any significant damage to the fruit, he said, adding that low temperatures actually can be a good thing.

“It toughens up the rind a little bit,” Jacobson said.

Most citrus growing areas received some rain in November, December and early January, and more was forecast for later in the month.

“Water is always a concern, but right now, I think everybody is in pretty good shape,” he said.

Navels seemed to be “solid,” he said in early January, with very few issues with the early harvest.

Cara cara oranges, blood oranges and the Sky Valley heirloom navels the company markets also were off to a good start with “outstanding” eating quality, he said.

“As we come into the main season, everything looks pretty good,” Jacobson said.

On Jan. 8, prices ranged from mostly $20.98-22.98 on 7/10-bushel cartons of size 48s shippers first grade navel oranges from California to mostly $8.98-9.98 for size 113s, according to USDA.

Valencia, Calif.-based Sunkist Growers Inc. is shipping a wide range of citrus items this winter, including organic navel oranges, conventional lemons, meyer lemons, Star Ruby grapefruit, cara cara navel oranges, blood oranges, California mandarins and minneola tangelos, said Christina Ward, director of communications.

“Organic grapefruit and organic lemons are available in promotable volumes through February, while organic oranges will continue to have ample availability through May,” she said.

This is a “promotable” season, she added.

“Our volumes are up across all citrus categories, and retailers have an opportunity to promote categories they haven’t been able to in the past,” Ward said.

Trade issues could make navel exports to China and Japan “problematic” this season, said Joel Nelsen, president of Exeter-based California Citrus Mutual.

California shippers had exported about 5.5 million cartons of navels to China, but the current trade dispute has “eliminated a lot of marketing opportunity for our industry,” he said.

Lemon volume from Santa Paula, Calif.-based Limoneira Co. should be up this year due to some acreage acquisitions, said John Carter, vice president of sales.

“We have completed the District 3 (desert) crop and are now shipping District 1 (San Joaquin Valley) and District 2 (coastal region),” he said in early January.

“District 3 volume is on par with historical numbers and District 1 volume is expected to be slightly higher compared to average,” he said.

Grade and sizing out of District 3 were “normal,” he said.

“District 1 sizing started off small and is increasing with help from the rains,” he added.

Overall District 2 volume is expected to be less than last year because of the lingering effects of last summer’s heat, Carter said.

But Limoneira should have more volume from District 2 as a result of the company’s purchase of Oxnard Lemon Associates, Oxnard, Calif., late in the summer, he said.

“Overall, demand has remained strong for lemons with stable pricing,” he said.