Sunkist, Duda, and Bee Sweet Comment on the Tight Citrus Market in California
CALIFORNIA - As the California citrus season begins to move through May, growers are reporting very good demand and a growing interest across all categories. While the state has had its host of challenges, citrus growers are rising to the occasion and mitigating lighter supplies with excellent quality fruit.
Paul Huckabay, Western Citrus Sales Manager, Duda Farm Fresh Foods, tells me, “Flavor is great this year and sales have been very good. Supplies of lemons and navels, as we expected, have been tight and currently demand definitely exceeds supplies. This could continue for the next several weeks, until the end of the season. We are done with our Murcott season and have a few weeks left in our Gold Nugget mandarin season.”
As an industry, Paul tells me that while Murcotts are all but done, Gold nuggets should carry on through the end of May. Late navels could go through June and a couple of very large marketers may go through July. Lemons will go all summer. Duda is also gearing up for its summer import program with Chilean clementines starting at the end of May, Chilean Navel oranges and New Zealand Meyer lemons expected to begin in early July.
I also spoke with Jason Sadoian, Sales for Bee Sweet Citrus, who agreed that demand is exceeding supply and that this dynamic market should continue all summer long.
“Without a doubt, the lemon market is at an all-time high again with no signs of slowing down. We haven’t seen it this hot so early like this, and we’re only in May. Clementines from Chile will be another popular item when they start arriving this month as their early volume is down for the second consecutive year due to drought conditions in their Northern growing region,” Jason notes.
Across the board it seems that usage for citrus spikes when the weather warms up. As Jason puts it, kids are out of school and tearing up the pantry looking for food, more people are out and about barbecuing, people are juicing citrus at home for drinking pleasure… the versatility makes citrus a staple in the kitchen.
“The challenges this year have been our water situation and the heavy costs associated with it, along the massive port strike that challenged sidelined our export business this season,” he says. “The heartbeat of our industry is its growers, we need to always make sure they’re taken care of."
Bee Sweet is currently gearing up for the import season and kicking off with mandarins this month, navels and lemons in July. Right now the company is shipping domestic lemons, grapefruit, and finishing up its navel oranges (ends early July) out of Bee Sweet’s shed in Fowler, CA.
Joan Wickham, Manager, Advertising and Public Relations for Sunkist Growers, tells me, “With growing consumer interest in easy peeling fruit, Gold Nugget variety mandarins and Ojai Pixie tangerines, and smaller citrus varieties are helping to drive the demand for citrus and offer consumers the convenience they love with the distinct taste profiles that pique interest.”
California Star Ruby grapefruit is also in season for Sunkist and the company offers the variety year-round to meet growing demand. Grapefruit is a trending flavor, and Sunkist is glad to be able to offer quality grapefruit year-round to meet growing demand.
“For instance, Technomic released their Flavor Life Cycle Trend Report earlier this year, and grapefruit is trending as an introductory flavor across multiple meal parts,” Joan notes.
Stay tuned to AndNowUKnow as the warm weather heats up, and demand for California produce continues to rise.