Navel oranges wrap up a sweet season for prices

Exeter-based California Citrus Mutual says Valencia oranges are experiencing a strong market as well, just one-third of the way through harvest

TULARE COUNTY – California’s most popular citrus variety ended a sweet season for pricing last week.

Navel oranges, known for their juiciness and a staple for cocktails, salads, salsas and desserts, are selling more than 40% higher than the average for the last nine years, according to California Citrus Mutual (CCM), the Exeter-based advocacy and marketing organization representing a third of California’s citrus farmers. 

The 2021-22 navel orange season wrapped up last week with prices rising to nearly $25 per carton for its most popular sized fruit. 

CCM reported last week that the navel crop is 100% harvested and haulers expect to finish shipping remaining inventories by the end of June. Prices for all sizes are strong at over $23 per carton. That compares to an average of under $17 per carton last season. The popular 48 sized orange, one of the largest sizes, is fetching an average of $24.90 per carton this season compared to $16.25 in 2020-21 and just $11.75 in 2019-20. A carton of oranges holds about 40 pounds depending on the size of the fruit.

Looking ahead to the 2022-23 season, industry experts project the next navel crop will be of an average size.

Meanwhile the Valencia season is in full swing and 31% harvested.  The average domestic price for the week was just over $19. The market is characterized as strong. Demand is picking up on larger sizes.  Demand for smaller sizes is starting to fall off which is typical with schools closing for the summer break. The price is well above average but mostly below last year’s strong showing when consumers were eager for Vitamin C.

Psyllid finds negative for HLB bacteria

Tulare County citrus farmers got more good news this week after multiple Asian Citrus Psyllid (ACP) finds in the Woodlake/Lemon Cove and elsewhere last month. Victoria Hornbaker, manager of the state’s APHIS Citrus Program, reports that for the Tulare County finds “all of the psyllid that were collected were tested to see if they were carrying the bacteria that causes HLB, and those all came up negative.”  

Officials are still conducting testing on the ACP detection in Fresno County. The industry fears the spread of citrus greening disease from these insects that has devastated Florida’s citrus industry.

Psyllids carry the infectious Huanglongbing (HLB), also known as citrus greening disease, which is fatal to citrus trees. There is no cure for HLB once a tree is infected. 

An ACP regional quarantine for the movement of bulk citrus is currently in effect in order to prevent the spread of ACP in California. This involves citrus being transported only in fully tarped or enclosed vehicles. 

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