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Mandarin, Tangerine & Clementine Market Summary


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Mandarin, Tangerine & Clementine Market Overview

The term “mandarin” refers to Citrus reticulate, sometimes called “kid-glove oranges,” and is characterized by deep orange skin with easy peeling and separation of sections. The fruit originated in China, hence its name.
Mandarins have been grown on a large scale in China, as well as in parts of Japan, since the sixteenth century and arrived in Europe by the nineteenth century.
In the mid-1800s the fruit made its way to the United States, reportedly arriving in New Orleans, then heading over to Florida. Sometime later mandarins traversed to the West, arriving in California. Tangerines, a type of mandarin, originated in the 1800s and refer to sweet mandarins that were shipped from the Port of Tangiers, Morocco.
The wide use of the term ‘tangerine’ for ‘mandarin’ has led to some confusion, though not nearly as much as the very popular easy-peel clementine.
Clementines are a type of mandarin orange with a murky past: one scholar believed they originated in North Africa, but another convinced most modern botanists they probably came from the Canton region of China. The fruit was brought to Florida in the early 1900s and to California a few years later.
Slightly flattened with thin, leathery skin, mandarin rinds go from smooth to bumpy as the fruit matures and separates from the interior flesh, giving them their easy-peel reputation.
Another type of mandarin, the satsuma, is named for the Satsuma province in Japan. Introduced to Florida in the 1870s, saplings were planted along the Gulf Coast in the early 1900s.
Subsequent freezes limited the states that could successfully produce the fruit, with California, Florida, Texas, and Arizona taking the lead.
California accounts for most U.S. supply; globally, China remains the leading producer of mandarins and/or tangerines.
Mandarins Seasonal Availability Chart

Types & Varieties of Mandarins, Tangerines & Clementines

Over the past 20 years, the popularity of mandarins (and their many incarnations) in the United States has surged due to extensive marketing campaigns, touting the simplicity of small sized, easy-peel citrus, especially for children.
Technically speaking, mandarins are not oranges, but many oranges are part mandarin, as the common “sweet orange” was a hybrid between a pomelo (or pummelo or Chinese grapefruit) and a mandarin.
Pomelos, citrons, and mandarins are considered to be the ancestors from which all other citrus fruits have evolved in various hybrids and combinations.
Clementines, tangerines, and satsumas are all mandarins, and their differences may have more to do with origin and type of tree than the fruit.
While mandarins are known for their ease of peeling, there are variations in rind separation from the sections, with no absolutes despite plenty of research. Fruit can have seeds or be seedless and size also depends on the subgroup.
Clementines can have a reddish tint to their shiny orange coloring and are an exceptionally popular part of the mandarin group. They tend to be round and the smallest of their siblings, seedless, very sweet, and can have slightly more adherence between the rind and segments in comparison to others.
Though the use of the term “tangerine” is still used fairly inconsistently, the fruit is a brightly colored type of mandarin, often with rougher skin, less sweetness, and a hint of tartness.
The similar sounding tangor is medium-sized and a cross between a tangerine and orange, with the Murcott as a top variety. A tangelo, like the well-known Minneola, is a cross between a tangerine and grapefruit, and larger still.
Satsumas are a type of mandarin that may be less brightly colored than their counterparts, tend to be flatter, and have a bumpy exterior. They are sweet and prized as having the most detachable peel. They are also the most cold hardy of these fruits.
Among the many mandarin varieties available are Sumo, Satsuma, Clementine, Dancy, Honey, King, Minneola Tangelo, Pixie, and Sunburst. Others include Amparo, Emperor, Fortune, Golden Nugget, Kara, Le-dar, Oneco, Owari, Ponkan, Robinson, Sugar Belle, Sunburst, Super Nova, and Wase.
Roughly 70 percent of U.S. mandarins and tangerines are destined for the fresh market. The remaining 30 percent are processed for juice, canned, or for sweetening and coloring additives to orange or grapefruit juice.

Cultivation of Mandarins, Tangerines & Clementines

Mandarin trees tend to be smaller and more cold- and drought-tolerant than sweet orange trees, but can be about the same size depending upon variety. Leaves can be broad or slender but are tapered to a point.
Mature trees can reach heights of up to 25 feet, with thin, thorny branches. Heavy fruiting seasons may cause drooping and require support to prevent limb breakage.
Flowers are single or bunched in small numbers. Less than 1 percent of pollinated buds will produce fruit. Tree bloom to harvest is from 6 to 10 months.
Soil should be prepared before planting to ensure good drainage. Rootstock is created via grafting to create trees as resistant to disease as possible. Most citrus thrives at tropical and subtropical environments, though the highest quality fruit tends to come from subtropical regions. Ideal temperatures should remain between 60 to 89°F.
Frost protection is vital as citrus freezes quickly at temperatures below 28°F. Damage can be avoided by closely monitoring weather conditions and providing wind and frost prevention as needed.
Using fans on tall poles to blow warmer air to mix with colder air near the ground can better maintain temperatures in groves. Watering can help slow the loss of heat that builds up in soil during daylight hours.
Heavier, higher quality harvests may stress trees and lessen the next year’s harvest, causing crop size to alternate year to year between lighter and heavier yields.
Growers combat the problem by thinning fruit or using growth regulators early in the season. Gibberellic acid helps to prevent blemishes when applied at color-break.
Groves average about 180 trees per acre with 12- by 20-foot spacing. Some cultivars such as Sunburst are self-incompatible and require pollinizer trees to be planted nearby.
Although citrus is hardier than many other fruits, it is still easily bruised and picked by hand when mature. Maturity can be measured by the brix or sugar level, fruit firmness, and even the shine or gloss of the peel (though this is not as reliable an indicator).
Fruit is packed into bins in the field cleaned, graded, sized, and packed for shipping. Large cells in the skin make the fruit more susceptible to oil spotting. Fruit not meeting quality standards is sent for processing.

Pests & Diseases Affecting Mandarins, Tangerines & Clementines

Pests of concern include the Asian citrus psyllid, root weevils, light brown apple moths, aphids, leafminers, citrus rust mites, European earwigs, rose beetles, scale insects, glassy-winged sharpshooters, snails, thrips, and fire ants.
Common diseases that affect mandarin varieties include citrus greening, citrus canker, various types of mold, stem-end rot, brown rot, anthracnose, alternaria brown spot, citrus scab, greasy spot, and phytophthora.
Blue mold is a form of wet rot and one of the more commonly feared diseases for mandarins, especially when the fruit has been exposed to excess condensation from rain, seawater, or snow.
The rot begins with circular white spots, which develop into green or blue mold. The peel becomes spongy, and pulp in segments turns overly soft. The mold is easily transferrable from fruit to fruit by contact.

Storage & Packaging of Mandarins, Tangerines & Clementines

Because mandarins are softer than other citrus fruits, they tend to spoil more quickly.
In general, mandarins can be kept for 2 to 6 weeks if stored between 42 and 46°F with proper ventilation and 90 to 95% relative humidity. Chilling injury results from exposure to temperatures below 41°F.
Storage length depends on cultivar, ripeness at harvesting, and decay control. Removing ethylene from vehicles and facilities used to transport and store the fruit reduces decay. Limited ethylene exposure is used for degreening, not ripening.
References: Agricultural Marketing Resource Center, Purdue University, Texas A&M University, University of California Division of Agriculture and Natural Resources, University of California Integrated Pest Management, University of California Riverside, University of Florida/IFAS Extension, USDA.

Grades & Good Arrival of Mandarins, Tangerines & Clementines

Generally speaking, the percentage of defects shown on a timely government inspection certificate should not exceed the percentage of allowable defects, provided: (1) transportation conditions were normal; (2) the USDA or CFIA inspection was timely; and (3) the entire lot was inspected.


U.S. Grade Standards Days Since Shipment % of Defects Allowed Optimum Transit Temp. (°F)
12-[7 VSD]-3
15-[8 VSD]-4
14-[8 VSD]-4
13-[7 VSD]-3
12-[6 VSD]-2
10-[5 VSD]-2


U.S. Grade Standards Days Since Shipment % of Defects Allowed Optimum Transit Temp. (°F)
12-[7 VSD]-3
There are no good arrival guidelines for this commodity specific to Canada; U.S. guidelines apply to shipments unless otherwise agreed by contract.
References: DRC, PACA, USDA.

Clementine Retail Pricing: Conventional & Organic
Clementine Retail Pricing: Conventional & Organic Chart

Tangerine Retail Pricing: Conventional & Organic Per Pound
Tangerine Retail Pricing: Conventional & Organic Per Pound Chart