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Positive outlook for California organic mandarin season
Mandarin growers in California are looking forward to the upcoming season. Expectations are high after a favorable lead up and steady demand. Prices are looking similar to previous years, after an abundance of mandarins over that time. This year, with yields looking steady, high demand is expected to drive a strong market.
"We grow two varieties of organic mandarins in our Reedley growing region," said Dieter Schellenberg, of Schellenberg Farms. "The Tango mandarins begin in mid January, followed by the Murcotts in early February. They are available right through to the middle of April. Growers feel the outlook for the mandarin season is very positive, so long as the weather holds out. Last year, there was a prediction for El Nino conditions, which produced early freezes and a wet winter season. We ended up having some frost but not entirely as severe as they predicted. We don't expect this year to have any detrimental effects on the crop, but that of course is never entirely predictable."
Schellenberg said that the market is looking strong for the year. He expects that prices should stay on the high side, especially for the organic market. "The market has been strong for a while now and I expect it to continue that way," he said. "There has been an increase in organic mandarin production in recent years, and now that there is a lot of product, we are seeing more competition."
"There have been a lot of growers transitioning to organic in the last few years, "Schellenberg added. "Despite the increase in organic mandarin growers, the price has been upheld. This is because demand has remained strong and there is still more room in the market for additional growth."
Micro climate great for growing mandarins
The Central Valley of California is in an ideal spot for citrus growth, with a number of mandarin growers taking advantage of the climate. The only hazard for farmers during the winter are the occasional frosts that occur on still nights. Producers though, employ the use of wind machines to help prevent any damage from freezing temperatures.
"There is a micro climate in this Central Valley area that is particularly conducive for citrus production," said Schellenberg. "A lot of growers are closer to the mountain side, and we are slightly west of the main belt. It means we are more susceptible to freezing temperatures in this area. Mandarins do need a certain number of chill hours to strengthen the rind, which helps to protect the fruit from disease and other damage. Additionally, we employ wind machines on our fields during colder, still nights. And with the technology improving, their effective radius has enlarged which means we are able to grow our fruit in a climate with average temperatures 1 or 2 degrees colder than we otherwise would."
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