Mandarins fuel citrus optimism

With available navel acreage hovering around 118,000 acres but still leading the way in California, mandarin acreage, rising 10 percent in two years to 62,000 acres, was coming on strong.

Once again, this reflected a fundamental shift from consumers. Orange-lovers, especially a new generation of kids, were discovering that the smaller mandarins were easier to peel, separate into segments, and also deliciously sweet.

The innate appeal of mandarins was magnified by several hugely successful marketing campaigns geared towards families with children.

“When you think about the brands that exist in the produce department you think about Chiquita or Dole, but you also think about Sunkist and Halos and Cuties—those are where the excitement lies,” said Joel Nelsen, president of California Citrus Mutual in Exeter. “And they’ve stimulated a renewed interest in California citrus.”

In the San Joaquin Valley, the father-son duo of John and Jack Rast (owners of Rast Produce as well as trucking firm Sierra Agricultural Transportation, Inc.) had positive things to say about the 2017-18 citrus crop.

Although harvest totals were down somewhat in the region due to warmer weather, the Rasts viewed demand as “fairly healthy” and also noted consistent, strong quality.

In short, they believe, “It’s been a great year for promoting citrus as a whole.”

Headquartered in Visalia, CA, Rast Produce is a broker, shipper, and wholesaler handling a variety of fruits and vegetables.

Founder and president John Rast, without disclosing the percentage breakout of citrus, confirms “the majority of our business is built around domestic supplies. Having said that, we do ship a fair amount of imported citrus almost year-round, especially on growing commodities such as mandarins and lemons, for example. These have been an area of growth for us the last couple years and we see that continuing.”

This is an excerpt from the most recent Produce Blueprints quarterly journal. Click here to read the full article.