Citrus industry leaders in California are voicing optimism this fall over the progress of the 2020-21 growing season, even as a USDA report estimates the navel orange crop to be slightly smaller than last season.
While color break took a little longer this year and delayed the start of harvest, “all other indications point to a healthy crop: sugar content is high, there is little to no scarring or damage … and navels will ride the coattails of a very successful Valencia season,” California Citrus Mutual says on its website.
The lack of scarring or damage is a particularly welcome sight in light of the heat and smoke present in the San Joaquin Valley in early autumn, the organization noted.
“Importantly this year, navel and mandarin imports cleared out with good demand and should not impede the California season as compared to the past few years,” CCM stated. “In addition, there is increased demand this year compared to last year.”
Issued in September, the National Agricultural Statistics Service’s initial 2020-21 navel orange forecast was 84 million cartons, down 5% from the previous year. Of the total, 81 million cartons are estimated to be in the Central Valley.
Survey data indicated a fruit set per tree of 319, unchanged from 2019-20 but below the five-year average of 363. The average Sept. 1 diameter was 2.198 inches, below the five-year average of 2.218 inches.
However, the final actual production has topped the initial NASS estimates in each of the past three seasons. Last year, NASS projected a crop of 73 million cartons, but growers ended up bringing in 85.6 million cartons from the orchards.