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US (FL): Fresh fruit shipments drop 20 percent

Florida fresh fruit shipments have declined more than 20 percent so far this season because of crop declines, smaller fruit sizes and a later start to the harvesting season.

Through Dec. 15, total fresh shipments have fallen 24.5 percent compared to the same point in the 2012-13 season and almost 30 percent compared to 2011-12, according to the Lakeland-based Citrus

Administrative Committee, a fresh industry regulatory group. Grapefruit shipments have dropped 23.4 percent since last season, fresh oranges 25 percent and tangerines, tangelos and other speciality varieties by 26 percent.

Fresh citrus represents a much smaller segment of the Florida citrus industry, dominated by juice processing, but it is particularly important in Polk County, the top producer of tangerines and tangelos and home to three of the state's 10 largest packinghouses in Dundee, Haines City and Lake Wales.

Most packinghouses didn't begin harvesting until the middle of October because this season's fruit was late in reaching minimum maturity standards, said Mike Garavaglia, chief financial officer at The Packers of Indian River Inc. in Fort Pierce and a member of the Florida Citrus Commission. That compares to many that started shipping last season as early as September.


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