IN THIS ISSUE:
FRUIT MOVEMENT -
As everybody knows, the industry got off to a slow start this year because of the rainy season running on into October. Catching up is not all that easy to do. So, how much are we lagging this season in comparison to the 2005-06 season?
Without regard to variety, total sales of Texas citrus at the middle of October was only 38 percent of that which was marketed at the same time a year earlier. Since then, the percentage has been slowly climbing to about 74 percent as of mid-November (see the “Year to Date” column below).
In order to catch up, the industry has to ship more fruit each week in comparison to the year before, but that occurred only in the week ending November 18 when we shipped about 111 percent of the volume as during the comparable week in the prior season (see the “Weekly” column below).
In addition, the table shows the breakdown of total utilization by type. Obviously, we have been very successful moving early oranges, but grapefruit is well off the pace, while navels and exports (which is also grapefruit) are really lagging.
With the delayed startup and lower than optimal weekly movements, this season is showing early signs of being a long one. Add in the estimated increase in total supply and we could conceivably still be shipping into May or even June-not a bright prospect at all.
Grapefruit diverted to processing is running about 150 percent of the volume of this time a year ago; orange volume is running about 180 percent of a year ago. Given the estimated increase in overall production, an increased volume to processing is to be expected.
However, considering the relatively slow utilization of this crop in fresh channels, the higher volume to processing could be due in part to either an overall lower fruit quality or the inability of packinghouses to sell the fruit they bring into the house, or both. From what I have seen, fruit quality is running pretty good to normal. The only significant quality problem that I have noted is an inordinate number of off bloom fruit, especially in Rios. There were some problems with oil spotting of oranges, but that was corrected fairly quickly by delaying harvest until later in the day to give the fruit an opportunity to lose some of its turgidity.
Consequently, it appears that the market just isn’t taking the volume of fruit that the industry needs to be moving. Unfortunately, all of the fruit that makes it through the degreening and grading processes does not always get sold. To meet the orders for certain volumes of a particular grade and size(s), more choice fruit and/or more fruit in the smaller sizes sometimes result. Such excess fruit goes into storage while awaiting sales. In storage, some of it gets too old before it can be sold, in which case the house “salvages” it to the processing plant.
If it were oranges, we wouldn’t be so concerned. After all, FCOJ futures prices are running above $2.00 per pound solids, so grower returns on juice oranges should be rather good. Grapefruit juice prices, however, continue to fall to levels that existed before the serious supply reductions that occurred due to hurricane and other damages a couple of seasons ago.
There hasn’t been much change in water levels in the reservoirs since a month ago-the U.S. share remains near 75 percent of conservation level while Mexico’s water is close to half of conservation level. So, what’s new?
First of all, Mexico has fallen behind in its deliveries of water to the U.S. for the year which ended September 30. The present five-year cycle ends on September 30, 2007. Between now and then, Mexico is obligated to come up with a total of 430,552 acre feet of water for the U.S.-of which 350,000 is the annual obligation and the other 80,448 acre feet represents a deficit from the prior year (or years).
But, according to the IBWC website, usable water levels in the Rio Conchos series of reservoirs totaled just over 88 percent of conservation capacity as of the end of November. For the four river systems listed (of the six that are to provide waters to the U.S.), the numbers were not so good at only about 70 percent of conservation capacity. Most of the shortfall is in the Rio Salado basin, as the combined volumes of the Rio San Diego and Rio San Rodrigo basins is only about 37 thousand acre feet, while the capacity of the Rio Salado is some 850 thousand acre feet.
We have certainly enjoyed great weather for the last several weeks, with cool fronts giving way to cold fronts and the chances of precipitation running about normal (read: more or less none!). Although significant cloud cover has occurred with the passage of some of the fronts, the norm has been clear, blue skies.
External fruit color has really begun to improve in the last couple of weeks. Credit goes to the season, shorter days and cooler temperatures, including the really “cold” fronts, for the color break that we are seeing. Hopefully, degreening rooms will not be needed much longer, which cuts the time from tree to consumer.
JULIAN W. SAULS
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