Harvest is underway on the Florida citrus crop. For Feek Family Citrus (formerly DLF International), harvest is starting about a week later and it started its first week back picking Hamlins. This week it will move into Navels. Harvest on fruit fresh off the tree will go until mid to late May while cold storage will go through July.
“The crop looks good. Last year we had a hurricane and a lot of the fruit went on the ground. We don’t have quite the crop we started with last year but we’ll have more fruit than we ended up picking last year,” says Doug Feek of Feek Family Citrus.
Quality looks good as do Brix levels which are up over last year by, on average, about five percent. “Last year at this time we were averaging about 9 and right now we’re averaging about 9.6. The acids are more in line,” Feek says. “We’re dealing with a better ratio this year. Last year we were dealing with ratios of 10-12 and this year we’re dealing with ratios of 12+. What we’re picking right now is 11+ Brix and around 18 ratio.”
As far as sizing, it is peaking on 125s/100s, then 80s and 138s. All of this starts a season that Feek believes will see strong demand, thanks to better fruit quality and fruit color. Pricing could also be similar to stronger this year. “Juice prices are up so I think our prices will be very similar on early oranges and a bit more on Valencia oranges. That’s primarily due to high demand of citrus juices which has created a higher price for the fresh market,” says Feek.
As the season gets going, the transition has also started to Florida fruit from California and imported citrus. “California still has some fruit so some are slow to transition but they’re starting,” he says.
Meanwhile, at Feek Family Citrus, along with its new name, there have been a few other changes as well. “Construction on our 35,000 square foot cooler is happening. We should have cooler space in early March so we can do all of our cold storage on-premises,” says Feek. “All of our wash water/cleaning water will have chlorine dioxide in it so it will help us keep our packing house sanitized. We also continue to automate every year with bagging, grading, and more.”