Florida Classic Growers in Lake Hamilton, FL, made it through multiple nights
of freezing weather in December and early January in good shape and is ready
to roll straight from a "tremendous" first half of the season into the second.
"We seem to have fared very well through those cold nights in December," Al
Finch, vice president of sales and marketing of the company which was
formerly known as Diversified Citrus Marketing, told The Produce News in
mid-January. "We had a tremendous first half of the season. We had good
volume, good arrivals; the demand was very good for Florida citrus, for
Sunburst tangerines and Navels."
Florida Classic's growers had a large enough crop of navels and Sunbursts to
actually "stretch that season into January," Mr. Finch said. Mid-month, the
transition to Honey tangerines, Temples and other mid-season oranges
Volume is down slightly on the Honeys, but in a year when citrus sizes have
been small across-the-board, that variety has proved a puzzling exception,
coming on larger than normal.
"There's good size on the Honey tangerines we're seeing -- they're peaking
on 120s right now," Mr. Finch said. "But it is a shorter crop, and we anticipate
to have them through the month of March and finish up early April. Our
Temple orange variety, that's kind of a niche item; we're promoting it in
three-pound bags available through mid-February. We're going to continue
with our mid-season oranges and transition toward the end of February into
the Valencia orange. We look to carry that all the way through June, and we
also do a storage program on Valencias, which we'll have available through
the month of July and possibly into the early weeks of August."
Florida Classic's ambitious storage program could give it an edge in the
summer citrus market, Mr. Finch said. "I think the retailer, the chainstores,
will continue to push that Florida product, especially with the high prices on
Red grapefruit has come on strong, and "we should have volume enough to
go into April on that," Mr. Finch said.
"We're continuing our gift-fruit program, which has taken off this year. We
had another good year of fundraising programs. So we're just keeping the
pace going and hoping we don't get any more cold weather," he added. "It's
been a good year so far. We're hopefully looking forward to milder
temperatures. We've had a good season, and our message is we want to
continue with a strong second half. We've been blessed. We've been pretty
Florida Classic Growers is a sales and marketing agency representing Dundee
Citrus Growers Association, Lake Wales Citrus Growers Association, Winter
Haven Citrus Growers Association and Lake Region Packing Association. The
organization was founded in 2001 but represents some of Florida's older and
better known citrus cooperatives.