The Valencia orange season in Florida is in full swing, with all packinghouses busy with product. This will continue for at least another month. Overall volume is down on last year, largely due to damage sustained from Hurricane Irma.
“Every packinghouse in Florida is running Valencia oranges right now,” observed Adam Roe of Noble Citrus. This should continue well into May, with fresh packing switching over to cold storage into June or July, depending on the volume. Noble Citrus will be carrying 75,000 – 100,000 cartons so we will likely extend into July.”
“Volume for the whole state is significantly down due to the post effect of damage from Hurricane Irma last year,” Roe continued. “This has also raised the cost of production and we are facing higher labor costs.”
Market steady, sizing good
Although costs are higher and volume is down, growers have noted that the market has not responded accordingly. They are however, expecting prices to trend upwards once the season nears the end. “We haven’t really seen the market go up in correlation to the costs and volumes,” Roe said. “From mid-May and into summer though, we predict prices will rise once some of the packinghouses finish up and supply starts to decrease.”
There are signs that crops are steadily recovering after the hurricane, with noticeable improvement in sizing on the Valencia oranges, compared with the early season Navels. “Sizing has been very favorable on Valencia oranges this season,” Roe noted. “They were small enough during the hurricane so they were able to reach a decent size.”
Strong juicing market lifting Valencia demand
Demand for Valencia oranges has been very good, both on the retail front as well as foodservice. Part of this is to do with the juicing segment. Retailers are promoting juicing and Valencia oranges are well suited for this purpose. According to growers, the Florida grown label is bringing an additional lift to the market.
“Retailers have been promoting juicing and Valencia oranges are ideal for juicing,” Roe said. “Demand has been very high and the juice orange segment is absorbing a lot of the volume. This has been great for the packinghouses as it uses the full spectrum on sizing.”
“Additionally, retailers and foodservice alike are promoting Florida grown as an attraction for consumers,” he continued. “We’re also seeing strong demand in the foodservice market when it comes to school lunches, for example.”