While demand remains solid for citrus fruit, there may be even stronger demand on the specialty citrus side of the business.
“The interest has just really been growing on the specialty items,” says Nelly Czajkowski with DiSilva Fruit in Chelsea, Mass. While she notes that there’s a particular push in demand on items such as Cara Cara navels, she also sees it across some of the other specialty items DiSilva work with including mandarins, stem and leaf citrus, blood oranges, Minneolas, and more. “And last year we started doing an heirloom navel. The program starts in January and it comes from old Washington stock trees so the original citrus trees that are close to 100 years old,” she says, adding that DiSilva packs the fruit in a 3 lb. bag.
Opportunities for smaller sizing
Right now, Czajkowski notes that it looks as though the crop overall for California citrus might be down somewhat. “But there are plenty of smaller sizes available which means it’s an excellent year for bag promotions on conventional and organic,” she adds. While California weather may have factored into the lower volume, she also notes that with tree fruits, bloom years vary. “You can have on and off years, more so with mandarins than oranges. Or you can have one year with a good set on the bloom and other years, not so much,” she says.
All of this means that pricing this year is either comparable to last year or have gone up slightly. “On the conventional side, we think the prices will hold at least,” she says.
Looking ahead, Czajkowski sees imminently the volume increase on California navels. “We usually try to push promotions around Thanksgiving and as we get into December so we’re hoping to see volume and demand continue to grow,” she adds.