The busy California citrus growing season is well underway. We are sharing an update straight from the orchards on lemons, navel oranges, and the ever-popular mandarin orange.
The new D3 crop grown in the Arizona and California deserts is underway and tracking along very ‘normal’ production levels. Growers are positive despite a 14% reduction in overall crop size and there will be plenty of lemons available for distribution. The quality of the new D3 crop desert lemons has been exceptional this year with beautiful consistent color, smooth texture, clean grade, and uniform shape. The thinner skin and good juice content of the desert lemons leads to good weight in the cartons.
The D2 lemon crop from Southern California that normally finishes in August/September has extended into October this year due to very good growing conditions this summer and a lack of extreme heat. This will create a short overlap between the districts, but with strong domestic movement the two regions will blend nicely.
The D1Central California lemon crop will start in November as normal and the early estimates indicate a normal crop in terms of quality, volume, and sizing.
The navel crop is progressing with the first fruit picked in early October for the domestic market. Early reports are showing sugar levels ahead of the 2019 crops. Growers are reporting color to be at near-perfect levels before harvesting.
The late hot weather in California in September and early October slowed down the navel’s color development, but with temperatures forecasted to drop this will assist with coloring up the fruit nicely. The maturity now is a good indication that good eating navels will be ready to start harvest for export in mid to late November. The navel crop this year is forecasted to be down in volume by 5% from last year and with slightly larger sizing. Growers are forecasting a similar crop to last year with a good range of sizes for all markets.
Since COVID-19 entered our communities in early Spring, grocery shoppers have been flocking to citrus options in their grocery carts. The demand for Southern Hemisphere Oranges and all citrus has seen stronger demand from retail since last March resulting in a strong pricing strategy. With this increase in demand, growers are expecting increased pricing to remain as the new crops come to market.
The US mandarin crop is also forecasted to be very strong this year. This category often called “easy peelers“ is a category favorite for many shoppers. Growers in both the Northern and Southern Hemispheres have planted a great deal of the many new varieties that fall under the Mandarin banner. There will be some overlap between the Southern Hemisphere and California for sure. However, there is strong demand for this luscious fruit that is seeing continued double digit consumption increases due to COVID-19. There will be plenty of options for retailers, wholesalers, and consumers in November.