Oranges continue to see a pandemic-related lift in demand.
“Demand has been a little better than normal years. I’d assume COVID-19 and people being at home are the reason for that,” says Adam Flowers of Booth Ranches in Orange Cove, CA. “With the extra harvest production and extra harvest numbers that we’re seeing, even with the additional demand, we will get deeper into the season than normal. It looks like the late side of the crop is a little stronger and will have more volume than normal years so I’d expect to go deep into June if not the first part of July.”
Supplies of oranges (Booth Ranches works with navels) has been good and similar to a normal year. Booth has good supplies of all sizes across the board with good quality as well. “Rain has also been limited out here so we haven’t had any weather issues interrupting harvest,” says Flowers. Currently it’s working with its spring and Washington variety and will soon move into its late varieties. “Our late varieties will be ready for the summer months,” adds Flowers.
Photo: Florida Classic Growers
As growers and shippers of a variety of produce items have noted in the past few months, exporting and port issues have been a challenge. “COVID-19 is creating somewhat of an issue on timing,” says Flowers. “It’s hit and miss. We’ll get the POs on the books and then set everything up to ship and then that could change at the port. It might be something we have to roll it over a couple of days before we can actually get it out. I think the port has managed it the best they can. It’s not really stopping any business. It’s just changing details around.”
Meanwhile pricing has been strong on oranges and Flowers says it’s been one of the better pricing years. “I think that comes from the additional demand--baskets are bigger at retail level, more people are staying at home and fewer restaurants are an option,” he says. “People are buying a little more at store level. And so, for the most part, pricing has stayed in that higher-than-normal range.”
Looking ahead, Flowers anticipates demand staying strong. “The weather is starting to warm up out here in the growing region so we’ll probably start seeing more of a push to get things moving quicker than normal,” he says.
Photo: Florida Classic Growers
Meanwhile on the other side of the country, Florida oranges are also seeing strong demand.
“There’s been excellent demand for oranges this season. Movement at retail seems to be very good and steady throughout the season,” says Al Finch of Florida Classic Growers, based in Dundee, FL. “The pandemic has people looking to incorporate Vitamin C in their diet and fresh oranges provides that need. It appears the citrus category is thriving in grocery stores.
Perhaps helping that movement is the real estate citrus is taking up in stores now. “There’s so many offerings in the citrus category today versus 10 years ago. And the overall allocated space at retail for citrus seems to be expanding for all the different varieties of citrus available in the marketplace,” says Finch.
For Florida Classic, its supplies are looking strong. “Our Valencia crop is in peak season and we look to have availability all through the month of May,” says Finch. “And then with our storage program, we will have them available through June. Our Valencias are peaking on 80s and 64s so we’re seeing good sizes.”
He adds that while Florida Classic did start a few weeks later this year, it’s anticipated the end of the season will be as usual.