|IN THIS ISSUE:
NEW YEAR, NEW CENTURY, NEW MILLENNIUM
WEST INDIAN FRUIT FLY
LOTS OF WEATHER
FLORIDA CROP REDUCTION
NEW YEAR, NEW CENTURY, NEW MILLENNIUM-
Despite all the media hype a year ago, both the twenty-first century and the third millennium arrived at midnight a couple of days ago. I don't expect any of us to be around for the next one, but I sure hope they get it right. Not surprisingly, the world is still going, despite the doomsayers' predictions. So, welcome and Happy New everything!
WEST INDIAN FRUIT FLY-
An immature female West Indian fruit fly was trapped in early December a few miles north of Weslaco which is some 25 or more miles west of the Rio Hondo quarantine area wherein 8 specimens had been detected. The original quarantine was extended beyond the end of January because of a detection in late November. The weather has been cold, which slows fly development, so it's unlikely that the original quarantine will expire before spring.
The Weslaco area detection prompted intensified trapping and fruit cutting. Because of the holidays, news has been scarce, so we'll have to wait and see what's going on. I would anticipate the establishment of a second quarantine area around the Weslaco find has already occurred.
As you already know, orchards within a quarantine area must either be bait-sprayed periodically or the fruit must be fumigated before shipment to other citrus-producing areas. Alternatively, harvest could be delayed until the end of the quarantine, assuming that it does end.
Early oranges and navels will not hang on the tree long enough for the quarantine to expire. Given the slow movement and depressed prices of early oranges, it may not be economically feasible to bait-spray or fumigate such orchards. While droppage was a problem earlier, the recent cold weather has attenuated the fruit droppage problem that we experience earlier, but droppage should really accelerate if we move into a couple of weeks of warm weather.
Given the above, and assuming that bait-spraying hasn't commenced, orange growers in the quarantine area may be better served by harvesting direct-to-juice. As always, do the math for yourself and be realistic about potential net return per ton fresh versus potential net return per ton for juice-direct. If the bait-spray program costs more than the difference between fresh and juice-direct, obviously juice-direct is the route to take.
LOTS OF WEATHER-
The Valley has and continues to experience cold weather, but escaped the brunt of several Arctic systems that came south during December. Some areas of Florida experienced colder temperatures, but reports are that citrus suffered no damages. Probably the most significant factor about the recent and current weather is that consumers haven't had an easy time getting to the stores, so sales haven't been outstanding.
On the plus side, fruit color is as good as I have ever seen-it is just beautiful! Also, the weather has not been especially favorable for pests, so we shouldn't expect to see the kinds of rust mite problems we experienced last winter and spring. Bloom should be phenomenal, as conditions have really been great for flower bud differentiation.
FLORIDA CROP REDUCTION-
The USDA reduced its estimate of the Florida orange crop during December as a consequence of smaller fruit size and lingering effects of the dry summer. Early and mid-season oranges were reduced by 8 million boxes, with Valencias decreasing by 3 million boxes. That put the total crop at 229 million boxes rather than the 240 million originally forecast in October.
The Florida grapefruit crop estimate was unchanged at 20 million boxes of whites and 30 million boxes of colored grapefruit. The Texas and California crop estimates for all citrus were unchanged.
Let's see if I got this right, dry weather reduced orange fruit sizes, so the crop estimate was reduced nearly 10 percent. Wouldn't one expect that same dry weather to have the same effect on grapefruit, thereby causing a decrease in the estimate? I guess it's asking too much, but imagine what a similar reduction in Florida grapefruit (nearly 5 million boxes) would have done for grapefruit prices for both Florida and Texas producers.
Volume of shipments remains sluggish, no October window for oranges to California, high supplies from all producing areas and possible consumer difficulty in getting to the stores as a consequence of severe winter storms through much of the country. The storms also affected the ability to get fruit to the markets. Hopefully, that's all behind us as we enter this new year and sales will pick up dramatically.
As of Christmas, Texas grapefruit shipments were down 12.2% from last season?with export grapefruit being down 40%. Navel orange shipments were down 16.4% while early orange shipments were 38.3% below last season's levels. If that's not worrisome, factor in that this season's estimates are for 14% more grapefruit and 20% more early and navel oranges than we produced last season. In other words, not only are we selling less fruit than last season, we have even more fruit to sell. Given the generally lower prices, especially for oranges, it's going to be a long season.
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JULIAN W. SAULS, Ph.D.
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