Navel Crop Estimated Large, Might Miss Target

Taylor HillmanTree, nut & vine crops

Oranges on branch
The Cooperative Agricultural Support Services (CASS) 2015-16 California Navel Orange Objective Measurement Report released on September 11, 2015, forecasts the upcoming navel crop to be 86 million, 40-pound cartons.

Eighty-three of the 86 million cartons are projected to be produced in the three-county Central Valley region comprising District 1 and represents an 8.5 percent increase over the 76 million cartons harvested last year. The varieties forecast in this report include conventional, organic and specialty Navel oranges.

The Agricultural Statistic Service conducts the crop survey and generates its projections based on random sampling of the number of fruit per tree, fruit size, combined with historical information, and then using statistical formulas to produce the estimate. In this year’s survey, the fruit count per tree in District 1 is 412, up 19 percent from the previous year, and 18.5 percent above the 5-year average set of 336 fruit per tree. The average September 1 fruit diameter was 2.248, which is above the five average diameter of 2.230. The estimate is calculated on 2,000 fewer acres than last year.

Growers, packinghouse fieldmen and shippers that California Citrus Mutual spoke with prior to today’s release generally believed that the crop was at least the same as last year and probably bigger than last year. Fruit size was reported to be larger and fruit set, especially on late varieties, is better in most groves. The improved fruit size is attributed to timely rainfall and good growing conditions following petal fall last spring. Early rains this fall could result in additional growth that would equate to more cartons.

The external quality is very good and the extended periods of high temperatures this summer have increased brix, so flavor is expected to be excellent this season. The crop is maturing well, with harvest expected to begin in early October.

Industry response to today’s report is that the estimate is a reasonable starting point. The big variable will be the acreage number. Thousands of acres have been removed during the current drought. The 2,000-acre reduction used by CASS is probably conservative, in which case the crop will come in below this estimate.