Posted: Monday, July 16, 2012 10:57 AM
Tim Hearden/Capital Press
Customers at Farmers Market Place in Shasta Lake, Calif., look at fruit on July 13. The harvest and shipping of summer fruit is at their peak season.
By TIM HEARDEN
SACRAMENTO - With the more than eight-month harvest of navel oranges in California's San Joaquin Valley all but finished, the focus of the market is turning to valencias.
Navel orange growers should meet the USDA National Agricultural Statistics Service's preseason projection of about 88 million cartons for the season, said Bob Blakely, director of industry relations for the Exeter-based California Citrus Mutual.
The harvest of navels is about 99 percent complete and should be wrapped up by the end of the month, Blakely said.
The smaller summer valencia crop is in high gear, although the recent heat is starting to cause the fruit to re-green. That means the export season is essentially over, as growers are having to treat with an ethylene gas which restores their color.
Overall shipping of valencias is in a lull as it faces competition from watermelon and other summer fruit over the next month or so, then should pick back up as schools get back into session and start including valencias on their menus, Blakely said.
"There's also competition from summer navels that are shipped from the southern hemisphere," he said.
Among the Golden State's other summer fruit, according to NASS:
* The harvest of lemons and grapefruit continues as well as peaches, plums and nectarines. The apricot harvest is winding down.
* Central Valley grapes are maturing well and rapidly reducing in size and gaining color, and table grapes in the Coachella Valley are being harvested.
* Strawberries are being picked and packed in the San Joaquin Valley.
Farmers say that although fewer acres were planted with watermelons this year, good weather during the growing season has produced high-quality melons, the California Farm Bureau Federation reported. Their harvest extends through the summer.
Citrus growers have endured plenty of challenges this season, as two consecutive months of freezing temperatures from mid-December through mid-February took their toll on crops. About 35 percent of the mandarin orange crop was believed to be lost to frost damage, while about 15 percent of the navel crop was affected, Citrus Mutual estimated.
The industry spent more than $100 million this winter on wind machines, water and the labor needed to run them, all to protect their trees from recurrent nighttime lows in the 20s.
For navels, dry weather in the fall meant smaller fruit for much of the picking season. However, fruit sizes improved after late winter and early spring rains, Blakely said.
The concern with valencias is that they may get too big, he said. If they continue to increase in size from the heat, they won't be as valuable because there's more demand for smaller fruit, he said.
The harvest of mandarin oranges, whose acreage could overtake valencias this year, typically starts in September and runs until after Jan. 1, Blakely said.
NASS crop weather reports: http://www.nass.usda.gov/Statistics_by_State/California/Publications/Crop_Progress_&_Condition/index.asp
California Citrus Mutual: http://www.cacitrusmutual.com/
California Farm Bureau Federation: http://www.cfbf.com/index.cfm