Demand for Golden Nugget variety spikes

California clementines lighter set but good demand

Last week’s rain kept some California citrus growers out of the field. "It’s never a good idea to pick wet citrus fruit because it causes skin breakdown and quality issues," says Jesse Silva with Kings River Packing. Around January 11 some growers were able to get back into their groves to continue working after the rainfall. 

Kings River started harvesting in October with their Satsuma then started Clementines in early November. Page mandarins started late December, early January. “It’s a really good variety,” Silva said. “We’re just finishing those up and we’re starting Tango seedless mandarin and Shasta Gold mandarin right now.”

The season started on a good note for the Satsumas with “good plentiful crops.” Silva says Clementines were a little lighter set overall but they had good demand. “We had a good Page crop and the interest in the Pages was really high, a lot of commitments. That’s helped supply keep moving.” Overall the largest crop volume for Mandarins are on the Tango seedless mandarins and the Murcott varieties as they harvest for the longest period of time. Silva says this is essentially the time of year for the larger portion of the mandarin crop. “We have good supplies, it’s a lighter set overall so we should have nice size in the field, peaking on 24s, 21s.” Our Mandarin season will go through the middle of April and they are exceptionally sweet and juicy; Tango season is typically from mid-January to April. 

Newest variety in the field
Golden nugget is the newest variety in their field. “It was something we’ve had for a number of years in small volume but we’ve seen such a big spike in demand and a lot of people have liked them.” Because the fruit is so delicate with a very oily rind, they’re packed by hand. “You have to handle them differently than any other piece of fruit. It’s a little harder to pack but the quality and the way we handle them I think people like a lot so we’ve seen a lot of growth on that variety. The eating quality is probably by far the best mandarin we grow.” Even though it “looks funky” he also says it has a wonderful aroma, is really sweet and easy to fall in love with once eaten. 

Citrus varieties gaining distinction
Much like the apple varieties, which,have flourished into multiple varieties, Silva says he’s seen mandarins do the same. “A lot of people at retail are wanting to distinguish the different characteristics of each variety of mandarin. People are starting to catch on, like with oranges (blood oranges, cara caras) now people are identifying individual mandarins: pages, golden nugget, etc. based on what they like to eat they gravitate towards one variety or another.”

Building expansions & year round program with Chile
There are plans to expand their existing facility with an additional 60,000 sq. ft. over the next year and add another 100,000 over time, Silva says. They’ve also been buying more acreage around the Central Valley area to plant different varietals of citrus. “We’re always looking for that new best variety. We’re in a nice growth pattern that we’ll be able to offer more fruit to our customers an be able to bring in new customers as well.” With an expanding summer program from Chile, Silva wants to steadily grow into offering citrus year round, over lemons, which are currently their only year round offering. 

Wary of HLB
There are concerns with the recent infestation of HLB disease on backyard citrus trees in Los Angeles, though it hasn’t affected commercial trees yet. “We’re more educated than people were when they first started battling the disease. I think we’ll be able to combat it and hopefully keep it under control. That’s a big focus for the industry as a whole,” says Silva.

Marketing heirloom oranges
Over the last couple of years Kings River Packing has focused on marketing their heirloom oranges more heavily. Groves were originally planted in the late 1800s and they’re working to get increased word out to customers that heirlooms are something they would be interested in trying. “We’ve had a lot of response from retail side on heirlooms. Even consumer feedback (is very positive): we get emails and Facebook messages on the heirloom bags that they’ve bought. It’s pretty crazy how excited people get about fruit.” But in the immortal words of Martha Steward, really that’s “a good thing.” 

For more information:
Jesse Silva
Kings River Packing 
Tel: 559-574-1285 

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