California’s organic citrus may see a bit of a head start on its season. For Creekside Organics, which partnered with Capay Organic in January 2021, is in the middle of converting over 100 acres of land from conventional land to organic land in Porterville, California along with land farmed by Capay Organic in Yolo County.
“This year we have organic mandarins, small conventional Meyer lemons and conventional Cara Caras and conventional Blood Oranges as we move the soil,” said Ashley Berlinger, business development manager/sales representative for Creekside Organics, Inc. all part of Creekside’s larger organic citrus line up that should be completed by 2025 and will include organic Cara Caras, organic blood oranges, organic lemons, organic navel oranges, organic Meyer lemons, organic mandarins and organic finger limes. “We are expanding our program and consolidating it to become a one-stop shop. We have also obtained our Fair Trade certification.
The late start comes because of the heat and waiting for cooler nights. “We’re going to be one of the first to sell our organic Satsumas because we’re in northern Yolo County,” Berlinger said, noting that the season for that stuff should start in mid-November. Libson Lemons will also start at that time, Meyer lemons will start in mid-January and then the usual Cara Caras and Blood Oranges will start in late January-early February.
However, the supply of mandarins, navels and lemons will be reduced throughout the industry thanks to thrip damage. “We still see a competitive market even though there has been a lot of land transfer over the last five years,” added Berlinger. In addition to less fruit, Fancy grade fruit has more limited availability with more choice grade fruit expected. “There is a lot of demand for navel bag, lemon bag and Cara Caras bag to move the volume. This way we get good returns to the farmers and nothing is left in the orchards.
Meeting lower supply can be strong demand that must exceed supply. “Everybody’s heard that yields are going down,” Berlinger said. “The holiday season is also when people think about vitamin C and health and in January, there’s a push for resolution.” Meanwhile, holiday cocktails should help drive food service demand for lemons and limes.
Consumption of specialty citrus also seems to be growing. “There is a need for more variety. The sweetness is the main one but the acid in the brix ratio is also important. So it’s having that crisp bite with the fruit that doesn’t just taste like sugar water,” said Berlinger, adding that marketing efforts around Cara Caras for example such as a pink orange and branding citrus also helped to get consumers excited about the category.
Regarding pricing, it is expected to be firm on Fancy-grade fruit and overall, firm FOB is expected for the season. “There’s a lot of navel, lemon, Meyers and Caras options in the industry — there’s more flexibility with that fruit for sure,” Berlinger said.