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Working around California's record rains for mandarin harvest

Despite record rains in California’s Central Valley, growers like Classic Harvest Produce are having to get used to picking Tangos and W Murcott mandarin oranges between raindrops, but company president, Linda Cunningham says they’re hoping it’s going to abate by this week. California tangos are mainly being exported to Asia and Australia. “It’s been light but now we’re coming into some big crop. We’re pretty optimistic about the outlook for the rest of the season. We have some great export programs and a few smaller retailer California programs.” Classic Harvest is focused on supplying 12 months a year, which not all California growers do. 

Dealing with adverse weather will hopefully have a positive end result. “We’ve had four to five of drought and now we’re kind of all caught up in about six weeks,” said Cunningham. “We’re hoping when the rain stops it will stop (for good) and we’ve had great snow pack this year so that’s going to help going into the summer not just for citrus but grapes and other crops.” California’s season will end around the third week of, or the end of April. 

In conjunction with mandarins grown on domestic soil, Spain imports are also still coming in. “We’ll start to wind down when California lifts a little bit,” said Cunningham. They’ll also be getting fruit from Israel in three to four weeks. “We figure we’ll have until the end of May when Peru starts.”

Since California has been really short, Cunningham says pricing has been high, but will come off as the rain stops and that price on Spain and Moroccan fruit has come off also. “There’s less and less promotion this time of year.” Over the next few weeks they’ll be picking tangos, exporting and working through the rest of the Spanish program. 

Morocco has had a few entry challenges to the USA with the USDA this year, according to Cunningham. “It continues to be part of the trials of importing,” she said. For California, besides weather figuring out what to do with smaller sized fruit can be an issue. “Retailers want to have a larger piece of fruit in the bag and you can’t export on the really small fruit (so you’d need) to have school programs. We have some excellent school programs so we’re in pretty good shape but I know in the marketplace (there) tends to be an overabundance of small fruit right now.” 

Plans are to step up the Eat Brighter campaign; the Cookie Monster program has been very successful. “We are going to step up the summer distribution of it – we have a couple more retailers we expect on board this summer so we’ll expand the reach.”

Soon Classic Harvest will be launching its Heirloom Navel. “That’s exciting for us. It rolls out in two weeks,” she said. Once the trees have caught up with the maturity of the fruit it will be harvested. “It’s all older trees - all old line Washington variety navels. It’s an eating quality that you expected 50 years ago when you only had navel oranges once and a while and they were really great eating quality.” It will be available through their programs with US and Canadian retailers, along with sampling in March.

For more information:

Linda Cunningham
Classic Harvest Produce
Ph: 559-549-5980

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