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On June 26, a vessel arrived at the port of Long Beach, CA, bearing Florida- based DNE World Fruit Sales' first shipment of this season's Australian Navels.

Stu Monaghan, DNE's national sales manager, said that the cargo "passed with flying colors. The fruit has great color, it eats very well, Brix ratios are right there in the low 11s, so we started off with really great-tasting fruit and no quality issues whatsoever. It's typical of an Australian start: always strong, always high color, very good tasting."

He added, "We had very, very good quality last year, so in terms of quality, it's identical. This year, fruit size is a little smaller ... [and] the fruit set is much heavier. We're going to have a lot less size at least through early August. There have been some rains the last few weeks, intermittent, that have held the program up a little bit. The good news is, that will result in [larger] size that will come right around the middle of August."

Early-season arrivals are heavy on Navels. DNE's Fallglo tangerines hit markets in California and Chicago in June and are already gone. "The Fallglos went well. We'll look to expand that next year to different markets," Mr. Monaghan said. "It's a good tangerine that comes at a good time when there's no other varieties in the marketplace."

A test shipment of clementines held up well. "This was a trial year for clementines to see how they rode," Mr. Monaghan said. "We're bagging them in three-pound bags for very limited distribution. We also look forward to expanding the clementine program to hit [the window] when Chile hasn't gotten their volume yet."

Rains put a minor damper on the total expected crop. Mr. Monaghan said that DNE had hoped to bring in 1.9 million boxes of Australian citrus this year, but the actual number will be closer to 1.7 million.

"It's a lot stronger than last year. We only had 1.4 million for the program last year," Mr. Monaghan said. "With smaller sizes, we'll still be focusing on our small-size promotions and three-pound bags will be pushed, but we're going to have fruit through the middle of October, so I still expect a strong season. Rain did hold us back in the early going here, but boy, once we hit the end of July, we've got some good promotions already set up that are going to be focusing on the smaller-size fruit. By the end of July, we'll have our Daisy mandarins and Minneolas and our Navels. It'll be one-stop shopping for retailers - when retailers can use one source for all their needs, it really does cut a lot of hassle out of their day."

DNE will again be bringing a group of Australian growers to the United States for in-store retail promotions, as it did last year. This year, the company plans to bring in a group of 10 growers to cover three areas -- California, Phoenix and Seattle -- in a 10-day span in mid-August.

"It's a great success. Our retailers really enjoy having the Australian guests in their stores participating in demonstrations and helping the promotion," Mr. Monaghan said. "You'd be surprised at the interaction between the consumers and the growers. There's no place those growers would rather be than with the consumers who eat their fruit."