Driven by the phenomenal success of brand name fruits such as Cuties and Halos, acreage of mandarins and mandarin hybrids in California have shot up 27% in the past two years, from 46,272 to 58,941 acres.
According to a recent USDA acreage survey, during that same time, acreage of navels has slightly decreased, from 126,217 in 2014 to 120,784 today. ‘Valencia’ acreage is declining at an even faster rate, from 33,985 in 2014 to 29,906 this year.
Mandarins are in fact oranges, but they are separated out by the industry to distinguish them from the so-called common orange, the navel, as well as the ‘Valencia.’
A look at the acreage numbers paints a stark contrast between oranges and the hugely popular mandarins, which have gained legions of fans across the country because they are kid-sized and easy to peel. Huge nationwide marketing campaigns by Sun Pacific (Cuties) and Wonderful Citrus (Halos) have certainly spurred sales as well.
Mandarins’ explosive expansion in the Golden State continues a trend, as acreage has increased 83% in the past eight years, rising from 32,200 acres in 2008 to 58,941 in 2016.
During that same period, navel orange acreage went from 111,645 to 120,784 acres, an 8% increase. Acreage of the second most prevalent orange, the ‘Valencia,’ stayed flat, rising only slightly from 29,642 to 29,906.
The recent acreage survey, which was funded by the California citrus industry, was compiled by USDA’s National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS). Approximately 4,300 citrus growers were surveyed.
The acreage of the state’s other major type of citrus, lemons, increased by 15% between 2008 and this year, from 39,869 to 44,621 acres. But growth has slowed in the past couple years, with acreage increasing just 1% since 2014.