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DNE weathers winter's worst with plentiful supplies of Florida citrus

by Chip Carter | January 16, 2011
DNE World Fruit Sales in Ft. Pierce, FL, particularly welcomed news from a Jan. 18 U.S. Department of Agriculture special report on this winter's freezing weather in Florida and its minimal impact on the state's citrus crop, especially grapefruit, which came out virtually unscathed. That is because DNE is one of the state's premier grapefruit producers, packing product under the world- renowned "Ocean Spray" label.

DNE's Ocean Spray deal will continue for the next few months, according to Kevin Swords, Florida citrus sales manager. "Grapefruit is at its peak eating quality; that's where we put those 'Ocean Spray' labels to it, and everybody recognizes that and can expect good eating fruit," he said in mid-January.

DNE also packs Valencias for Ocean Spray; that deal will start the third week of February and continue through May, Mr. Swords said.

Honey tangerines are also on deck now "and will be through mid-March," he said. "And as far as juice oranges go, we're still in the early to mid varieties and expect to start Valencias the third week of February."

There is also still time to get in on DNE's short window for Temple oranges. Harvesting started in mid-January "and with us it's only a fou-r or five-week deal, but it takes us through most of February," Mr. Swords said.

Some unexpected good news has come in that mid-season orange varieties seem to be sizing up, Mr. Swords said. Honey tangerines across the state are actually larger than normal for some reason, "and the juice oranges we're in now seem to have sized up a bit," he said. "The Honey tangerines are a size or two larger than the Sunburst were, which is very welcomed."

Grapefruit, though, is "still another story," he said. "The way we had to spot- pick early -- and a lot of groves have been spot picked twice -- with all the cold, we do not expect a surplus of large grapefruit out there. We're still having to deal with smaller fruit. It might size up a little bit, a size or so, but it's still relatively small, so we'll be promoting the smaller sizes whether in bags or bulk. Most people have spot-picked their groves, and at this point, your choices are very limited."

The bottom line is, he concluded, "Yes cold weather hit us, yes there's some sporadic damage, but by no means is Florida done for the season or unable to promote. Don't walk away from Florida because you think the cold did us in. And just a reminder -- February is National Grapefruit Month, so we'll take all ads we can get. And with Valencias being one of the most popular juice orange varieties, we can promote anytime there."