Citrus Nurseries Bank On New Varieties

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Sugar Belle Orange

Like most businesses, the success of citrus nurseries is based on having the right product at the right time. We know that grapefruit resets and block replacements will generate business for Florida citrus nurseries for the foreseeable future. We know that Florida needs to increase its production of processed orange varieties over the next decade, if Florida is to maintain or expand its share of the global juice market. Growers are beginning to recommit to planting acreage of grapefruit and oranges, motivated by myriad of rationales.

However, when it comes to fresh oranges and tangerines, there seems to be less certainly. Growers see large West Coast clementine and tangerine acreage coming into bearing and wonder if there is room in the market for a resurgence of the Florida tangerine and specialty fruit market. Florida had more than 50,000 acres of specialty fruit 20 years ago, but current estimates show fewer than 14,000 acres in production in 2011-2012.

Consumers now have far more options in the produce section than ever before. Shelf space is at a premium; it’s easily lost to substitute products and hard to reclaim. A close examination of retail sales data is needed to get a clear focus on the answer to this question. New Varieties Development & Management Corp. called on the Florida Department of Citrus (FDOC) for current fresh produce sales data. The FDOC provided current data from Freshlook – which highlights clear opportunity for Florida nurseries, growers and packers.

Picking Fruit

Over the past year, plums showed a strong increase in volume and sales revenue (see chart below). Berry movement increased moderately, while sales revenue increased significantly. Apples, a competing product that we watch closely, decreased in volume but showed increasing revenue. New high-value apple varieties are making an impact. Oranges are holding steady in volume with moderately strong pricing. Grapefruit is holding steady in volume and revenue. The product that is showing the strongest performance is tangerines (including clementines), where movement and revenue are up more than 30%. The consumption of easy peel “convenience citrus” is outpacing all competitors and is showing no signs of slowing down.

Fruit Figures

Domestic market change from prior year (Nov. 2010-Nov. 2011)

Item Dollars Lbs.
Berries 6.2% 2.4%
Apples 4.6% -.8%
Grapes -1.5% -3%
Oranges 3.5% 1.1%
Peaches -2.6% -.8%
Grapefruit .6% 1.1%
Pears -1% -4.8%
Tangerines (incl. clementines) 31.6% 30.9%
Plums 10.1% 9%

Peter Chaires is the executive director of the New Varieties Development & Management Corp.

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