A month in, and the Navel orange season is off to a mixed start in California. Weather is good right now, but expectations are for a lighter crop this year. The market is sluggish at the moment after customer demand eased following the Thanksgiving Holiday rush. But that is expected to change soon as the season progresses. Growers are also seeing a good quality crop with good sizing and a high level of sweetness in the fruit.

“We began harvesting and packing the early Navels in the second week of October in District 1, which takes in the San Joaquin Valley,” said one citrus producer in California. “The weather is great at the moment but we are expecting a lighter crop this year due to hot weather earlier in the year. Expectations are for the crop to be down by 8-10% this year which would make it the lightest in ten years. However, quality and sizing is good and we are seeing sweeter fruit with high BRIX levels. Demand is a little slower right now and we haven’t yet seen much movement after the Holidays. The market is steady but we expect movement to pick up towards Christmas.”

Exports and retail bags see strong markets
The usual export markets across the Pacific are off to a good start with steady volume and demand. Suppliers are also noticing that the demand for oranges in measured bags are seeing a positive uptake in retail stores in the United States.

“The export markets are off to a great start,” he said. “The biggest buyers of California navels are typically Australia, New Zealand, China, Korea and Japan and we are seeing steady demand and good volume into those key markets so far.”

“In the United States, there has been an increase in demand for oranges in bags from the big retailers like Walmart,” he continued. “Bags of 3lb and 4 to 5lb are proving popular among customers. They are finding them convenient and are looking to those quantities for things like juicing at home. The navel oranges are well known for their high levels of Vitamin C and customers seem to prefer the bags.”

Author: Dennis M. Rettke; www.freshplaza.com