Doug OhlemeierWhite grapefruit at IMG Citrus Inc., in Vero Beach, Fla.VERO BEACH, Fla. — Grower-shippers say the season is bringing a typical year for grapefruit but one that marks a rebound year from last season.
Harvesting began in early October, a little later than normal.
This year is a welcome relief for growers who didn’t experience a great season last year, which saw the groves yield smaller sizes and less sweet fruit, grower-shippers said.
“The season is looking well, and it’s a much better crop in terms of overall quality,” said Russell Kiger, sales manager of DLF International Inc., said. “We have better sizings this year. We have seen fruit that looks very nice and clean. The only concern people have is the amount of rainfall we got over the summer.”
In early November, growers were harvesting heavy volumes and fruit was peaking on the larger 40s and 48s sizes, Kiger said.
Because of an abundance of California fruit in the pipeline during early fall, Florida saw a slightly slower than normal start, said Matt Reel, director of sales for IMG Citrus Inc.
He said customers were waiting for prices to come down a little before they began purchasing Florida fruit.
Reel said production began in earnest in mid-October when several retail chains began promotions.
“The internal quality has been ahead of where it was last year though we have had some issues with juice content and meeting minimum juice content requirements,” Reel said in early November. “We still have a good eating piece of fruit. The brix levels are high and every week the harvesting gets better.”
Sizings didn’t turn out as expected, said Dave Brocksmith, Florida citrus manager for Seald Sweet International.
“Because of the large amount of rain we had over the summer growing season, we expected bigger sizes, but they were still peaking on the smaller sizes, the 48s, 40s and 56s,” he said in early November.
Some of the blocks produced smaller fruit, which made it more challenging to market the smaller sizings.
Retailers, however, are promoting the fruit, said Kevin Swords, Florida citrus sales manager for the Fort Pierce-based DNE World Fruit Sales.
“We have had some good promotions under our belt,” he said in mid-November. “The eating quality and the internal shape are all good. It’s more of a flat-shaped piece of fruit versus some of the nosiness we experienced last year. Cosmetically, we will have our share of challenges due to heavy scarring and some melanose on certain blocks, but the internal shape and eating quality are much better this year.”
Dan Richey, chief executive officer of Riverfront Groves LLC, said the season started with variable fruit testing.
Because of a prolonged bloom during winter, he said it took longer than normal for growers to get the fruit to pass the maturity standards.
“The external quality looks better than last year, and the internal quality is also much better,” Richey said in early November. “The fruit has very high brix. The brix is a point higher than the same time last year (10% higher).”
On organic grapefruit, Uncle Matt’s Organic Inc., Clermont, planned to begin harvesting in late November.
“We are seeing very strong demand for that red seedless,” said Steve Kiral, fresh fruit sales manager. “The field reports all indicate we should have a nice size range and a good crop ahead.”
Kiral said he expects a variety of sizes, including many 32s and 30s as well as the smaller 40s, 48s and 56s and some supplies of the larger 27s.
Uncle Matt’s typically finishes production in mid-March.
In mid-November, the U.S. Department of Agriculture reported these prices for 4/5-bushel cartons of Florida red grapefruit arriving in Boston: $24 for 23s, $23-24 for 27s, $21-22 for 32s, $19 for 36s, $16 for 40s, $14-15 for 48s and $12-13 for 56s.
Last season in early November, the USDA reported $30 for 27s, $28-32 for 32s, $26-29 for 36s, $20-24 for 40s, $19-21 for 48s and $17-21 for 56s.
The Indian River region expects to pack promotable volume through mid-April.