Doug OhlemeierMatt Reel (from left), director of sales for IMG Citrus Inc., in Vero Beach, Fla., and Matt Kastensmidt, domestic sales manager, view some red grapefruit in early October. Grower-shippers say this year’s Florida citrus season is bringing higher grapefruit brix levels. VERO BEACH, Fla. — This year’s Florida citrus season is bringing sweeter grapefruit, smaller volumes of navel oranges and smaller tangerine sizes.
Growers began harvesting the Sunshine State’s tangerines and grapefruit in late September and early October, about two weeks later than normal.
“The season has had a little later start, and there have been some hiccups here and there on certain varieties, but it’s going smoothly,” Kevin Swords, Florida citrus sales manager for DNE World Fruit Sales, Fort Pierce, said in late October. “We have really good eating quality right out of the shoot on grapefruit.”
Swords said the season isn’t bringing many misshapes and grapefruit brix levels and packouts are higher than last year.
Dan Richey, chief executive officer of Riverfront Groves LLC, said growers enjoyed favorable growing conditions, allowing packers to pack more fresh fruit into the cartons and higher brix levels are a contrast to last season.
“Internal flavor and quality characteristics and external appearances are better,” he said. “With that combination, we are anticipating a better year than last year. The grapefruit will look better and taste better.”
Matt Reel, director of sales for IMG Citrus Inc., said early harvesting brought high grapefruit quality.
Brix levels are 9-plus. That high sweetness doesn’t normally begin until mid-November, he said.
While navels should bring high eating quality, volume isn’t as big as last year, Reel said.
“Between the crop being down and some high prices for fruit in the field, prices should be slightly higher this year for Florida navels,” Reel said. “That may limit promotions but the quality will be high.”
Reel said the industry expects 2.5 million 4/5 bushel cartons of navels, down from 2.7 million cartons last year.
Because of the federal government shutdown, the U.S. Department Agriculture postponed its first Florida citrus season forecast until Nov. 8.
DNE’s Swords said buyers can expect high navel quality but said sizings should be in the middle range, the 64s and 80s with some jumbo navels sizes, the 40s and 36s, expected to arrive in December.
Navels generally harvest through late December when midseason oranges begin before late season valencias start by early March.
On tangerines, the early season fallglos went well, Reel said.
“All tangerine varieties we have heard will be nice,” Reel said. “We are hearing of very good quality.”