US (CA): Good movement, some smaller sizes for navels

The California navel orange season got off to a good start last month with good volumes of fruit and brisk movement. Pricing has held up for larger sizes, and though smaller fruit has not commanded robust prices, recent rains may help lower-priced smaller fruit increase in size.

“The quality of the crop has been very nice and sugars have been high,” said Harley Phillips of Johnston Farms in Edison, California. “It's too early to tell about volume, but we're anticipating an above-average crop.” The U.S. Department of Agriculture estimate for the 2012-2013 California navel crop put the state's production at 93.0 million cartons.

Phillips added that demand has been good, which has led to very good movement. While prices have been good for larger-sized fruit, he noted, smaller fruit has not fared as well.

“Prices have held up nicely for the largest fruit, but the prices for smaller fruit is getting down to the cost of production,” said Phillips. That could be an issue this year with some oranges having trouble sizing.

“Sizing has been a little smaller than we'd like to see,” said Bob Walters, sales manager for the Visalia Fruit Exchange in Visalia, California. But recent rains, and more rain expected in the near future, can help fruit increase in size, he added. The only danger would be getting too much water, which could affect quality. But aside from some sizing issues, quality has been very good this year, he said, and that's something that's spurred on strong sales.

“I think the taste of our fruit has something to do with the good demand we've had,” said Walters. “Fruit is eating well, demand has been good and we got off to a decent start.”

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