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Positive mood for this year's Florida citrus season

The citrus season in Florida is underway and it's been a mixed start for the different citrus types. Some have had a great start, like grapefruit which has been met with a welcoming market. Other citrus such as seeded tangerines are having a tougher time gaining momentum due to the large volume of Southern hemisphere seedless mandarins still available. Overall however, the mood is positive and Florida growers say the crop is looking very good this year.

"For the most part, we are off to a good start," said Adam Roe of Noble Citrus. "Florida growers were anxious to get started because there is a strong appeal for local fruit. Overall the crop is looking much better this year compared with last year when the Florida citrus industry was dealt a blow by Hurricane Irma. So far this year, there has been very little tropical weather activity in the citrus growing region."

Smaller sizes early for oranges
Roe noted that the size profile for oranges is a little smaller this year, both in Florida and California, which is contributing to that sector of the citrus market having a slow start. "Orange sizes are predominantly smaller early in the season," he said. "We should see some size improvement though as the season progresses."

The smaller sizes in Florida and California appear to have two different causes. Florida growers say they are having smaller fruit because the trees are still recovering from Irma last year. While in California, drier weather is likely to be the cause. Still, it is leading to a lot of fruit on the trees. "Florida orange trees are still in recovery from the hurricane last year leading to the smaller sizes," Roe explained. "It's a big crop but the fruit is not sizing up quickly. Overall, there is a lot of fruit and that is why the USDA estimates are so high."

As a result, the market for larger-sized fruit is tight. "Anything with good size is commanding a high price," Roe said, adding that the shortage extends to juicing oranges. "The Navels can't compete with the Florida oranges on BRIX and juice, however we are seeing a significant shortage of mid-size oranges for the juice machines. Smaller oranges work well with the smaller cup sizes on the machines."

"The market doesn't want seedy tangerines anymore"
While grapefruit was off to a good start and oranges are still finding their place in the market, tangerines have been a mixed bag, with the seedless clearly outperforming the seeded varieties. Part of the reason is that there are still offshore seedless tangerines around from the Southern hemisphere - and they're not moving. Prices are low, while Florida seedless tangerines are seeing strong movement and good pricing.

"Seedy tangerines have had a rough start," Roe observed. "Southern hemisphere ones were still coming in and have been very cheap as suppliers are trying to clean up the offshore fruit. Florida seedless, on the other hand, are doing okay because there is less competition for them. The market doesn't want seedy tangerines anymore, as has been demonstrated by the way the Peruvian seedy fruit has seen such low pricing and very little movement."

Noble Citrus launches easy-peel program
The market's reaction to seedless tangerines is good timing for Noble Citrus. The company announced they have now been able to launch a seedless tangerine program to retailers. They were hoping to do so last year, but the effects from Hurricane Irma meant they had to postpone the launch until a more robust supply was established. The program is underway now and will continue through into early next year.

"This is the first year Noble Citrus is able to offer retailers a program for the easy-peel, seedless tangerines," Roe said. "Two years ago, the trees had yet to mature for sufficient volume and last year was Hurricane Irma. The program started on October 1st and will go through to the end of January. It has been well accepted and we are hoping to expand on it as the younger trees mature further and bear more fruit. The seedless tangerines come in a 2lb pouch bag, similar to the 2lb bags that apples come in."

For more information:
Adam Roe
Noble Citrus
Tel: +1 (863) 294-3577

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