Florida citrus growers are optimistic about what they’re seeing on their trees this season.
“With grapefruit, we’re seeing very similar numbers as far as volume as last year. But the quality—it’s probably the best quality I’ve seen in several years,” says GT Parris of Seald Sweet in Vero Beach, Fl. “Our pack outs should be higher and that might yield a little bit more fruit, even though we have the same amount on the trees.”
For grapefruit, right now Parris says it’s seeing fruit peak largely on 40s so it’s spot picking on color and size with the hopes that on the next round, the fruit will have sized up to possibly 32s, 36s and 27s. “The fruit is clean, better looking with colors and the internals compared to last year seem to be .5 to almost 1 point higher on Brix which produces better tasting fruit,” says Parris. “In Florida, that’s got a lot of people excited on the grapefruit side.”
What’s the difference?
So what’s led to this quality crop? “We’ve had a few years now since Hurricane Irma and these trees have really responded very well,” says Parris. “I have to give a lot of credit to the growers—they’ve done a great job learning how to manage a crop with this greening disease.”
The picture on oranges looks similar. “We’re predicted to be up a little bit from last year. But it’s the same thing—it’s a good crop with good quality,” says Parris. “It’s just nice to see this kind of crop and it’s giving us hope that we haven’t had in the last few years.” Its sizing on Hamlin oranges right now is as expected—100s and 125s. Following running this variety, Seald will turn to the early Pineapple oranges.
Imports heading out
At the same time, demand is starting to turn right now. While this is approximately the time of year when the import season tends to wrap up for citrus, Parris notes it’s going longer and longer each year. “They’re stepping out mid to late October whereas Florida used to really start the first of October,” says Parris. “We’re now expected to start later this month or early November. By November 1st, most imports will be out of the way and then we’ll really see demand pick up.”
Yet, Parris isn’t anticipating much change on pricing. “I think for grapefruit, where we were last year is a solid indicator of where we’ll be this year,” says Parris. “Pricing on oranges also won’t be much different. The only thing is the juice oranges—there may be some battles out there to find where that market will be and where we can settle in at.”
One other development in Florida citrus is the emphasis on varietal tangerines this season. “We’ve got some early Pride seedless tangerine. And then we have a Tango that comes on in January,” says Parris. While there’s been some increasing production on these varieties in the past few years, Parris notes the trees are maturing and producing a better yield.
“These are good eating tangerines to compete with the clementines and Murcotts from California,” says Parris. “The main thing there is getting the consumer or buyer or retailers to come back to Florida on the tangerine and realize we have a seedless tangerine that is very viable. Especially on the East coast, it makes sense.”