“For summer citrus, these are exciting times,” said David Mixon, senior vice president and chief marketing officer for Seald Sweet International in Vero Beach, FL.
In a June 9 interview with The Produce News, Mr. Mixon said that Seald Sweet this year is importing citrus produced in South Africa, Peru and Chile — and the firm’s summer citrus volume will be up.
In the week of June 5, Seald Sweet received its first South African clementines by container into New York.
The operations at Seald Sweet’s South African grower partner, Mouton Citrus (Pty) Ltd. in Citrusdal, continue to expand, and Seald Sweet is “looking at promotional opportunities with our partner-customers.” Mr. Mixon said that Mouton is among the larger citrus producers on South Africa’s Western Cape. “Mouton Farms is a partnership we have had for many years now.” Johan Mouton, the managing director, “has got a great operation with class-one production. They know how to produce fruit and have a great family-run operation.”
South Africa’s industry as a whole is seeing a slight reduction on early clementines due to drought and heat.
The country’s Clemengolds, which will be shipped later, will see at least a 10 percent volume increase, he said. Mr. Mixon noted that “Clemengold” is what South Africans call the W. Murcott.
South African Navel orange production “has the possibility of a slight percentage increase — between 4 [percent] and 6 percent — depending on the industry. The overall volume on the tree looks to have some good sizes. This will increase production and the quality. Larger fruit sizes will increase South Africa’s Navel orange boxes harvested.”
From South Africa, “The external quality of clementines and Navels are just in a class of their own because of less wind scar. They are very clean. It is all perfect for growing good-quality fruit.”
South Africa will have “a good Midknight crop. The sizing should not be as big as Navels, but there will be good sizes” in the 64- to 72-count range. Navels will also be in the 64-72 range, “with maybe a few more 40s to 48s than Midknights.”
Mr. Mixon said that “the Cara Cara crop from South Africa is a little smaller in size. The volume should be about the same as last year. The size structure will be closer to the 72-88 range than in the past. Traditionally, it’s in the 64-72 range.”
This will be the second year that South African grapefruit will be exported to the United States, Mr. Mixon said. That fruit will begin arriving around the middle of July. “The grapefruit crop has been phenomenal, with good sizing, good exterior quality and good color.”
As for South Africa’s grapefruit export volume, it “really depends how the season goes. It will be up, no doubt about it. We project a decent increase with volumes from South Africa.”
Mr. Mixon said that Seald Sweet “is looking at another great year of production in Peru. We have Minneola Tangelos as the primary item out of Peru.” Seald Sweet’s imports of Peruvian citrus will have “a slight percentage increase compared to what we had last year. This year, there will be a great opportunity for promotional programs going forward. In general, the quality on the product is outstanding.” Seald Sweet received its first Peruvian citrus during the week of June 5, and it had “fantastic” appearance and color.
Seald Sweet has instituted a blue-ribbon seal on Peruvian Minneolas as part of its program to ensure the fruit has the proper maturity level. “We are measuring ratios to be better than the average ratio coming out of Peru.” The effort addresses maturity problems for the category over the last couple of years.
From Peru, Seald Sweet is shipping a 10-kilogram Minneola box. The firm is repacking all of its summer citrus in facilities in New Jersey and Long Beach, CA, into smaller retail units. These facilities “are run by our operations people.”
Mr. Mixon said, “Peru is in the process of packing some W. Murcotts that are arriving in mid-July. This is one of the items that will continue to show growth as more and more trees are planted. There is young production on Murcotts and Navels each year, which means a larger increase on volume from Peru.”
Seald Sweet received its first 2011 Chilean citrus — clementines — in late May. “Our Chilean Navels will be arriving here about July 12.”
The Chilean crops of clementines and Navels are down, “but in both cases, there is more acreage of producing trees that are coming to maturity. There are more acres actually going into production. So it is kind of a break-even to where there is less fruit due to drought in Chile on clementines and Navels,” but trees in other production areas are “actually producing more fruit. That will give us an opportunity, but the early clementines will remain less because of the drought where early [fruit is] grown in the north.” Those groves are in Copiapo, Chile, and areas a little to its south.