Californian mandarin growers harvest ‘robust’ crop

Casey Creamer, president of California Citrus Mutual in Exeter, has described this year's mandarin quality as ‘superb’. "Sizing is good, and there's a good quantity this year, compared to last year," Creamer said, adding that he's "just really optimistic. It's got excellent flavor and should eat well."

Rich Colwell, who grows, packs and ships mandarins in Penryn, says his crop has been "very heavy and robust." He added that the COVID-19 pandemic and resulting health concerns have boosted the fruit's popularity.

"I think that the demand for fresh, well-grown, well-cared-for, tasty mandarins, particularly during this COVID-19 period, has really exploded," he said. At his farm, "everybody's working 10-12 hours a day just to keep up right now. It's been a very, very good season and continues to be."

Along with his harvesting and packing crews, Colwell named the U.S. Postal Service as a hero of the harvest season. On one recent December morning, Colwell shipped 82 boxes of mandarins in the morning, addressed to customers around the country, and had 15 to 20 more ready to go in the afternoon. Shipments of 5- or 10-pound boxes have gone up "by an order of magnitude this year," he said, compared to 2019.

Earlier this year, the USDA National Agricultural Statistics Service conducted its first Mandarin Objective Measurement Survey, covering seven counties from Fresno to Imperial. The survey found an average of 945 mandarins per tree among the 271 trees sampled, with an average size of 1.49 inches in diameter. USDA said a production forecast remains at least three years down the road.


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