California’s Navel orange season started out challenging. “There was quite some rain between December and February and as a result, we were only able to harvest a few days a week for an extended period of time,” says Garrett Steele with Bravante Produce. In addition, pricing on small fruit was down throughout the periods of rain. However, the situation flipped about two to three weeks ago when the price of smaller fruit started firming up. “Small fruit is receiving a decent price right now and while large fruit is more in abundance, pricing on large Navels is still good.”
US supply of Navel oranges is currently limited to California as Texas still sees the effects of a freeze two years ago. “Pricing was down half of the season and now that pricing is getting stronger, shippers are slowing down and holding fruit back to extend the season,” Steele shared. They will try to extend the season as long as possible to recoup some of the losses from the first part of the season. Steele expects domestic fruit to be shipped until mid-June. Imports from Chile and South Africa will start to trickle in on the East Coast by the second half of June while Chile, and Australia will ship to the West Coast.
As for lemons, it wasn’t a great year. “Mexico held on to their lemons a little too long and was still in the market when California started,” said Steele. This resulted in more limited orders. “On top of that, the lemon season was impacted by lots of rain, just like the orange season.” However, the difference is that rainfall makes lemons grow in size and a result, the crop saw an abundance of large fruit and a shortage of small fruit. “While this year’s lemon season was subpar, it was better than last year.”
Right now, Bravante Produce is harvesting Gold Nugget mandarins. “Most growers are done or nearly done for the season, but we hope to hit the late window by harvesting in May and going through June,” said Steele. “It is a very hard item to sell, but I am hopeful retailers will make the switch from a regular mandarin to a Gold Nugget for two to three weeks before the season ends.”
Citrus trees are going through bloom now and Steele is anticipating a bigger size crop for the upcoming season due to the amount of rainfall the state has seen. “Last summer was so dry, the early Navels never grew in size. However, they are finally seeing size now,” commented Steele. He is hopeful there will be more medium-size fruit available next crop season.
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