Supplies of mandarins out of California are solid though the market is feeling a bit crowded this season.
“Supplies are good. There are a lot of it around,” says Susan Bidvia-Kragie of Madera, CA’s Western Fresh Marketing Services Inc. She notes Western Fresh is currently packing stem-and-leaf easy-peel citrus including Tango and Murcott varieties. “It feels like there are more people in the deal. A lot of people pick this and “bald” citrus which don’t have the stem and leaf attached.”
Bidvia-Kragie believes that some growers realized stem-and-leaf citrus is a money-making opportunity, though it does come with its challenges. “You have to move it quickly because the leaves start to look old,” she says.
What made for a challenge though when it came to harvesting was rain hitting the region late last week. “It got everybody out of the fields and nobody is going back probably until early this week,” she says. “It’s logistically difficult to get into the fields to pick and doesn’t necessarily affect the quality if you pack correctly because everything gets washed anyways.” She notes that in terms of sizing this year, Western Fresh has plenty of bigger fruit, a size that consumers tend to prefer.
Chinese New Year push
In terms of demand, Chinese New Year, a celebration that features mandarins, has pushed things along. “And then after that, demand will taper off. We’ll get maybe six or eight pallet orders whereas before Chinese New Year, it’s load after load,” says Bidvia-Kragie. “The demand will still be there after but it’s not at the same frenzied level.”
She does wonder if the extra players in the market have affected demand. “I feel like we may have lost some of our demand because there are many others out there. There were a lot of people going out with targeted priced fruit who didn’t have a good customer base,” she says. “More people were moving fruit desperately this year compared to years past.”
Pricing though looks as per usual: for Western Fresh, its extra-large/bigger pack is going for around $20 while its large/smaller is going for about $16.
Looking ahead, Bidvia-Kragie predicts a slight slow down post Chinese New Year’s but continuation in sales. “As long as the rain doesn’t affect quality, we’ll just go along as normal,” she says. “There won’t be the pressure for the full load volume but we will just keep plugging along.”