|IN THIS ISSUE:
The data are in, the FCOJ futures market climbed back to very high numbers (around $1.98 at present), and Ms. Steger's August estimate of 127 million boxes of oranges in Florida was not too far off the USDA number of 135 million boxes. The breakdown is 72 million boxes of early oranges (down about 4 percent from last season) and 63 million boxes of Valencias (down about 14 percent from last season). The early orange estimate now includes Temples, which have averaged about 700,000 boxes during the last two seasons. Overall, the orange crop is down about 9 percent from 2005-06 season.
Florida's grapefruit production is forecast at about 9 million boxes of whites (up about 38 percent) and 17 million boxes of colored (up about 33 percent). Overall, the crop is up about 35 percent.
For California, the navel crop is projected down about 27 percent but Valencias are expected to be up about 8 percent. Grapefruit will be down about 5 percent.
THE TEXAS NUMBERS-
In Texas, the numbers are higher than anybody had expected-grapefruit up about 31 percent, early oranges up about 17 percent, Valencias up about 30 percent.
The projected 268,000 tons of grapefruit is 60,000 tons more than last season's 208,000 tons but only slightly more than the approximately 264,000 tons produced two seasons ago.
The estimated production of 65,450 tons of early and navel oranges is about 6,000 tons above last season's roughly 59,000 tons, but only 2,000 tons more than was produced two seasons ago.
Valencias are projected at 10,200 tons, which is well above last season's production of 8,500 tons but significantly below the 11,500 tons produced in 2004-05.
Although oranges and a lot of grapefruit have been passing maturity for several weeks, harvesting is off to a slow start because of the weather. Rainfall, high humidity and continuing cloud cover have combined to keep a lot of orchards from drying out sufficiently for harvesting.
According to what I see and hear, fruit quality is excellent and packouts are very good.
Since the rumor is that grapefruit juice prices are coming down, we really need to see more of the crop in the box or bag rather than going to the juice plant.
And it isn't just rumor, as the USDA Agricultural Marketing Service is currently considering a request from Florida's Indian River Citrus League to buy $5 million worth of its grapefruit juice-which would be about 5 million gallons of juice, or roughly 10 percent of expected production. The basis for the request is that with the federal quarantines on Florida citrus, there will be an excess of grapefruit juice. In other words, the quarantine on fresh citrus would result in an excess of grapefruit going into juice.
OLEOCELLOSIS (OIL SPOTTING)-
As expected because of the weather, we are seeing more oleocellosis than normal. It is not just wet ground; fruit picked under wet, humid conditions has a greater tendency to develop oil spotting during the degreening process.
Oil spotting occurs because the fruit is so turgid that very little external pressure will cause oil glands in the peel to rupture. Such pressure is exerted during picking, especially when the fruit is "pulled" rather than "snapped" from the twig.
The oil spotting marks that result from finger pressure are rarely the only ones, as harvesters typically use gloves and usually know how to "snap" the fruit easily. The more widespread damage occurs when the fruit is dropped into the picking sack and when it is dumped into field bins-every place that a susceptible fruit impacts another piece of fruit or surface of the bin, an oil spot develops. Jostling during transport from the field to the degreening rooms at the packinghouse also results in oil spotting of susceptible fruit.
What to do? One way is to use a pressure tester to determine if the fruit is sufficiently non-turgid to pick without developing normal oleocellosis injury. The other method is to simply delay harvest until the afternoon, while also avoiding groves that are really too wet to harvest. What happens by waiting is that the combination of higher temperatures, sunlight, and wind increases moisture loss, thereby lowering internal pressures-the fruit is less turgid-so that the oil glands in the peel are less likely to rupture from normal harvest activities.
There are more than enough other problems that reduce orange fruit quality and packouts without our having to complicate the matter by inducing oleocellosis.
LAST EIGHT YEARS-
The Valley's average annual production of grapefruit over the last eight years is 240,300 tons, while oranges have averaged 72,473 tons over the same period. The estimate for this season, if realized, will be the second largest crop since the 1980's, with the largest being that of the 2000-01 season (285,560 tons of grapefruit and 94,201 tons of oranges).
Average packouts (from TVCC data) over the last eight years are interesting. These data are only the commercially utilized fresh fruit, excluding all gift fruit and local use. For grapefruit, the average fresh utilization has been 58.6 percent. Early and navel oranges averaged 70.8 percent packouts, while Valencias averaged 72.8 percent.
Rumblings among growers as to the differences in returns between the 2004-05 and the 2005-06 seasons piqued my curiosity. In 2005-06, packouts were slightly above average for grapefruit and well above for oranges. However, in 2004-05, grapefruit packout was only 45.79 percent, early and navels came close to average at 68.82 percent, and Valencias were significantly below average at 64.06 percent.
So, the industry produced a little more than average tonnage in the 2004-05 season, but packouts were well below average, which tended to reduce returns. By contrast, production in 2005-06 was well below average, but packouts were above average, which tended to increase returns. Obviously, a couple of factors other than just production and packouts are involved in the final determination of grower returns-the price of fresh fruit and of processing fruit are also rather significant.
Before the last two seasons, Texas grapefruit exports were averaging just under 300,000 cartons per year. However, increased exports in the last two seasons boosted the average to almost 409,000 cartons. Surprisingly, in the 2004-05 season, over 940,000 cartons were exported, but in 2005-06, almost 592,000 cartons went overseas.
According to the latest updates, the US share of waters in storage is about 75 percent of conservation level, while that of Mexico has reached about 45 percent of conservation level. The rains that have been with us off and on since early September have mainly lowered the demand for irrigation withdrawals from the reservoirs, as there have not been any really big increases in storage levels over the last couple of months.
Other than hopes for harvest, there is not a whole lot going on. It is November and one normally expects to be home free from pest damage at this point. Given the recent and current weather, I am not so sure about citrus rust mite populations. A few growers are trying to spray now, as they have encountered enough rust mites to be of concern.
With earlies and navels, you have to consider harvesting, as there would be little economic justification to spray those groves if they are to be picked in the next two or three weeks. Grapefruit and Valencias, however, are likely to still be at risk into next spring, so the level of rust mites could dictate a spray application.
JULIAN W. SAULS, Ph.D.
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