Florida citrus growers have been hit by bad weather and a later developing crop.
However, initial estimates are that the yield this season is looking good, said Mike Burge,
marketing specialist with the Florida Department of Citrus.
“We got off to a slow start as the fruit did not mature as quickly as expected and we’ve also had a lot of rain which meant we couldn’t get out into the fields to harvest.”
Late or not, estimates from the US Department of Agriculture were upbeat, he said, with the orange crop at around 252 million boxes, up 15%, and grapefruit at 42 million boxes, a rise of 8-10%.
However, while overall volumes were up, Burge warned the Star Ruby variety of grapefruit would be in short supply after a failure to bloom earlier in the year.
Quality is also good, with a lot more fruit available for the fresh market, 60% of the total yield.
Burge said last year some 655,000 cartons of grapefruit was shipped to the UK, but this year Florida hoped to beat that by 20%.
“I think the UK has the potential to be a million carton market. We just need to differentiate our product from the competition.”
He said Florida would be continuing with PR promotion and instore sampling events to support the fruit this season.
However, the UK campaign could face derailment due to the growing EU-US steel row.
The EU is threatening to retaliate to US steel import tarrifs by imposing additional import duties on a range of products, one of which could include grapefruit.
The EU is expected to impose its retaliatory measures between December 10 and 15, although it is undecided what products will be affected and by how much.
Burge said it was a situation that the Florida suppliers were keeping an eye on.
Ed Bedington