While citrus is often considered a winter fruit and tends to be promoted as such, there are summertime promotional opportunities, and organic lemons are leading the way.
“We will have a good summer citrus program this year,” said Myles Chasser, a fruit buyer for Four Seasons Produce of Ephrata, PA. “Specifically, organic lemons have a very good, consistent supply,” he said.
Myles Chasser, Fruit Buyer, Four Seasons Produce
That solid supply is partly due to the fact that during the summer months organic lemons are available from three different points of origin: California, Mexico, and Argentina. Supplies from these locations overlap, giving buyers multiple options from which to choose at various times throughout the summer. Also playing an important role this season were the generous rains in California in the winter and spring.
“All that rain California had helped the trees and should continue to help over the next couple of years,” Chasser said. “We are seeing a better organic lemon market than we have seen the last two or three years.”
Organic lemons will definitely offer outstanding promotional opportunities for retailers—but they won’t be the only citrus crop in good supply over the next few months.
“We are seeing a better organic lemon market than we have seen the last two or three years.” - Myles Chasser
“Currently, we still have some good organic navels in the market. There is still plenty of fruit around, and we are seeing suppliers stretching out the season a bit,” Chasser said, adding that the rain again played a significant role in helping to size the fruit and extend the season. “We should have a good supply of organic navels for the first couple of weeks of June.”
The length of the organic navel season is especially important to the organic Valencia crop, which is the traditional summer orange. “Most retailers don’t switch to Valencias until the navels are gone,” he said.
Homegrown Organic Farms organic lemons distributed by Four Seasons Produce
Chasser said that scenario is working well for Valencias, which has a smaller crop this season. In addition, growers have told the Four Seasons buyer that the significant 2022/23 winter rain should have a positive impact on the size of the 2023/24 crop.
That again should work in the favor of the smaller California Valencia crop, meaning it will not have to carry the orange merchandising load at retail for an extended period of time past summer.
“Currently, we still have some good organic navels in the market. There is still plenty of fruit around, and we are seeing suppliers stretching out the season a bit.” - Myles Chasser
While organic grapefruit is another crop that offers some availability in the summer months, Chasser said it has tighter supplies than the other citrus varieties. “The organic grapefruit has a snug market right now,” he said, adding that the citrus promotional opportunities lie elsewhere.
Organic mandarins are on the tail end of their California season, with fairly good supplies in play until near the end of June. “It appears as if we have four to six weeks left for the mandarins,” he said, adding that varieties such as W. Murcott, tangelos, and Gold Nugget are carrying the organic specialty citrus load as the season winds down.
Jason Laffer, Vice President of Sales, TerraFresh Organics
Also weighing in on the availability of organic citrus for the summer months was Jason Laffer, vice president of sales for TerraFresh Organics in Mill Valley, CA. The company has a solid summer citrus program in the Pauma Valley of California with organic lemons, grapefruit, and Valencias.
“We have a great robust organic lemon crop,” he said, noting that the company will have excellent summer supplies from California, Argentina, and Mexico. The organic lemons from Argentina, which will be in good supply from late June through late July, are typically shipped to the East Coast and service the company’s customers in that half of the country. Organic lemons are available from California year-round, while Mexico chips in with some supplies in late summer. TerraFresh’s summer organic lemon is especially good this year, Laffer said.
TerraFresh Organics organic Valencia oranges
The company's summer organic grapefruit program will feature Ruby and Star Ruby fruit from the Pauma Valley in the June through August time period.
Additionally, TerraFresh will have a six-week program of specialty organic citrus from Peru featuring Murcotts and minneolas as well as some Cara Cara navel oranges.