California Citrus: More Popular Than Ever

Rainy Days

After years of record-setting drought, heavy rains this past winter came as a welcome relief to California farmers, including citrus growers.

“We certainly needed the rain; it helped a lot,” says Bob Blakely, vice president of California Citrus Mutual, Exeter, CA. “Our growers will receive 100 percent water allotments this year. In some areas we got groundwater recharge.”

While recharge of groundwater that was pumped during the drought is good news in the long run, heavy storms may have reduced last season’s Navel crop.

“Last year was OK for Navels; we had a ton of rain, so it cut down on the yield,” says Adam Flowers, account manager at Booth Ranches, Orange Grove, CA. “The yields and harvest shouldn’t be affected this year.”

All that water looks to have also dampened the yields of this year’s California Valencia orange crop.

“I haven’t heard anyone say it’s going to be a really big crop of Navels this year,” says Chuck Plummer, sales representative at LoBue Citrus, Lindsay, CA. “The crop came up smaller than anticipated last season because of all the water and the affect seems to have trickled into the Valencias.”

While the long-range prognosis is good following the rains, the dampening effect may extend to this year’s Navel crop.

“This year’s crop could potentially be a little shorter,” says David Roth, president of Cecilia Packing, Orange Cove, CA. “We are thinking it will be 5 to 10 percent less than last year.”

Most of the rains also came north of the parched land that produces the lion’s share of the nation’s fresh market citrus, and water transfers to the Central Valley orchard remain politically charged.

“The rain was certainly welcome and needed, however, some of the heaviest rain occurred well to the north of the major citrus producing areas in the Valley,” says DiPiazza.

“We expect about the same size Navel crop, a larger Clementine crop, and because we harvested Murcotts into May, we expect that crop to be down slightly… but still a very sizeable crop.”

A wild card impacting the size of the harvest will be the effects of an unusually hot July in the Central Valley.

“There is concern about the extremely hot July we had, and whether it will lead to more summer drop,” says Blakely.