Growers in Florida are about to finish up the Valencia orange harvest. Some are already packing the last of their fresh oranges and moving on to the cold storage crop, while others still have a bit of fruit left on the trees. Shippers will continue to supply Valencia oranges from cold storage for several more weeks before the season will conclude by the end of July. Florida has experienced some ideal weather conditions which has resulted in a decent quality crop, according to Doug Feek of DLF International.
"We are about the only ones still packing fresh Valencia oranges," he said. "There is about a week of picking to go before we move on to the cold storage crop which will take us to the end of July. The fruit has been excellent this year, with BRIX averaging 13, ratios of 18-19, and the juice content has been very high. We have the soils and this year the weather also really helped us. The aromatics, as well as the BRIX to acid rations in Florida oranges make them the best premium orange in the world, especially for juicing."
Feek added that the trees are improving each year, providing a boost for the state's growers that are battling greening. "The greening has been very bad for a period of four to five years," he observed. "However, the trees and fruit are improving each year. This season we saw yields per acre up in many groves and found the BRIX-acid ratios to be much better than we have seen in several years since greening began. There is still about five to six weeks to go with this current season and we are already looking forward to finishing off on a positive note and start talking about next season."
Bigger crop than last year
Volume estimates prior to the start of the season indicated that Florida would see a large crop. While the final volume looks to have fallen short of the prediction, it's still a much bigger crop than last year's hurricane-affected season. The numbers are also an overall improvement given the general decline the state has experienced in previous years.
"We certainly had a bigger crop than last year," Feek noted. "It looks like we will finish up producing between 71 and 72 Million boxes, which is a bit below the preseason estimates. Overall, it's a positive result and still well above last year." When asked about future estimates, Feek added, "Our Valencia crop tends to be alternate bearing, however the trees and the fruit crop at this time look good and additionally we do have many new acres of trees planted that will be coming into production over the next one to three years."
He mentioned the market began low due to competition with other citrus, but as the season progressed, prices improved. "The market is good right now. There was a period in April and early May when the market struggled because there were still a lot of Navel oranges and mandarins around from California and other regions. Eventually though the market rebounded to where it should be."
New grading system a success
Within the past year, DLF International installed a new grading system. The company says the new equipment hosts the latest technology for improved fruit grading. Feek said using it during this past Valencia season has resulted in a successful first year, although he added that Florida citrus already has a firm basis for quality.
"Our new grading system proved to be very successful in separating the green from the orange fruit as well as differentiating the sizes. It gave us a good advantage for our packing operations."