VOL. 21, NO. 4
IN THIS ISSUE:
It is truly amazing the differences that shake out with the passage of time. Initially, doom and gloom claimed a 70 percent loss of the California navel and Valencia orange crops during the January freeze. In March, however, the USDA’s revised estimate of all US orange production for the season told a different story—which estimate remained unchanged through the April revision.
Overall, the California orange crop is estimated to have dropped 20 percent from the January estimate. The losses were assessed at 18 percent of the navel crop (from 1,237,000 tons to 1,012,500 tons) and 23 percent of the Valencia crop (from 487,500 tons to 375,000 tons).
Reported damage ranged from groves with no apparent damage to groves that were wiped out. While the crop seems to have survived much better than has been widely reported, it is unlikely that all of the remaining volume will go into fresh market channels as usual. The fact is that a lot of fruit will likely have sectoral damage that is not bad enough to cause abscission, but should be detectable in the packing process. That fruit will obviously be diverted to processing.
By contrast, with no freeze, the Florida early and midseason orange estimate declined by some 8 million boxes or about 11 percent in March, with another 1.3 million boxes decline at the April estimate. Florida’s estimate reduction totaled 418,000 tons; California’s freeze-reduction totaled 338,000 tons. On March 13, the President issued a disaster declaration for several California counties—based in part on the citrus crop losses.
That being said, a news report in late March puts the Valencia crop down 40-60 percent due to the freeze and planned acreage reductions (I suppose the latter means that some orchards are being bulldozed before the harvest is completed?). Basically, I don’t know what to believe. Indeed, the news this week showed a prominent California politician picking a dried-out orange from an orchard.
In other news, the February discovery of light brown apple moth in Alameda and Contra Costa Counties is of interest. This Australian native infests stone fruits (peaches et al.), pome fruits (apples et al.), grapes and citrus, as well as a variety of vegetables. Its damage can stunt or deform seedlings and ornamentals in addition to the injury it causes to fruits.
In addition to Australia, the light brown apple moth is known in New Zealand, Hawaii and parts of the United Kingdom. Considering that both New Zealand and Australia are citrus producers, it would not seem to be a major problem for citrus.
Don’t recognize the area? Perhaps Alameda or Berkeley are more familiar.
AND IN MEXICO—
Officials of the Secretary of Agriculture of Mexico confiscated 16 trailers (850 tonnes) of citrus from Vera Cruz at the Tamaulipas border. It seems that the brown citrus aphid is fairly common in Vera Cruz, which producers in other states don’t want. According to the news report, most of the citrus in Tamaulipas is susceptible to citrus tristeza virus. Basically, most citrus in Tamaulipas and in Nuevo Leon are budded onto sour orange, as the industry is much older than that in Vera Cruz or Yucatan.
In case you have been focusing on canker and greening in Florida, remember that the brown citrus aphid is the most efficient vector of CTV and that it tends to disseminate the more virulent forms of the disease. It has been in Florida for several years, where tree losses to CTV have increased—but the significance of the losses tends to be overshadowed by losses to the other two diseases.
Unfortunately, we seem to concentrate on the possibility of accidental introduction of insect pests (and the diseases they vector) from Florida. However, it is not really known if the Asian citrus leafminer that was discovered in Brownsville some years ago came in from Florida or from Mexico. It seems likely, however, that the Asian citrus psyllid came across the river from Mexico rather than overland from Florida, based on the fact that it is common throughout south Texas, but not in southeast Texas.
The point is that some years ago, most authorities expected brown citrus aphid to come into Texas (and subsequently into Arizona and California) from Mexico. However, the aphid did an end-around and island-hopped across the West Indies from South America into Florida.
Nonetheless, the Mexico connection should not be overlooked, as the aphid has continued its northward advance along roughly the same route as that followed by the Africanized honeybee—and you know where it crossed. Bear in mind, also, that the exotic fruit flies with which we have had to contend in the last several years apparently came across the river, though one can’t rule out the possibility that one or more of them jumped ship at the Port of Brownsville.
FCOJ futures have dropped to some of the lowest prices since the start of the season last September. For the most part, the price is in the $1.80s for May delivery.
Through March 31, the total carton equivalents shipped fresh into the domestic market was 7,872,690—which is 253,263 cartons more than the total for all of last season. In terms of total fresh utilization, however, the 8,019,213 cartons total is still about 190,000 less than last season.
According to the crop estimate and the TVCC utilization reports, approximately 13 percent of the grapefruit and a third of the Valencia crops are still on-tree. Surprisingly, about nine percent of the early and mids were supposed to be out there still at the end of March. However, the Texas orange crop estimate was reduced seven percent in the latest revision, as the early and midseason harvest is presumed to be virtually complete. If you take the seven percent from earlys, the remainder would be down around two percent.
Some in the industry were predicting a 10 million carton year. To reach that number, however, means another 1.98 million cartons have to be packed and shipped. At the weekly average of the last six weeks, it would take another 6 weeks—or until the middle of May. Is there that much fruit still out there?
The answer is no, there isn’t—if the estimate is close to actual. The remaining (estimated) supply is only about 1.89 million cartons. At that number and the overall lower packouts at this time of year, it is unlikely that any fruit will be left at the end of April. We could top nine million, but not by much, in my estimation.
It was late and it was massive—I don’t recall seeing any bloom as great as this one. Of course, what colored the ground white beneath the trees does not translate into a huge set, as that will be determined by weather and cultural conditions over the next couple of months. The set will be only as good as the condition of the trees allows—the better the overall tree condition, the better the set.
If you didn’t notice, it wasn’t just citrus that bloomed so prolifically—practically everything that could bloom at this time of the year did. It isn’t all that common to see flowers on Pittosporum or dwarf yaupon holly. The orchid trees are a riot, and the native species are simply unmatched in their bloom. I have never seen Beaucarnea recurvata (bottle palm or pony tail palm) bloom until this year—a very large specimen in Weslaco.
LOOKING FOR A GOOD BOOK?—
No, not Barnes & Noble. Florida Science Source, Inc. is a publisher and distributor of books that are of more interest to ag scientists and commercial growers, especially citrus growers. Fresh Citrus Fruits, Second Edition, by Will Wardowski, William Miller, David Hall and Bill Grierson is the better version of the original which was published a couple of decades ago.
You can see a bit of its content at http://www.ultimatecitrus.com/fssource/index.html. This edition includes chapters on food safety and organic production, plus some excellent color plates of postharvest diseases, disorders and others.
SORRY FOR BEING SO LATE—
Actually, I’m not really, but a few loyal readers asked. What happened is that my secretary took vacation time to coincide with Semana Santa and the Easter holidays. Neither of us was paying attention to the calendar sufficiently to recognize that the first occurred on the weekend, so I was without her assistance in the final compilation and transmission to you until her return today.
Now, Lucy has been my secretary for the last 26 years—and far be it from me to fuss at her about this or much of anything else. ‘Nuff said.
JULIAN W. SAULS, Ph.D.
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