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Homegrown urges expansion of organic citrus category

The citrus category has been expanding quite nicely in recent years and embracing that expansion may be the best bet for retailers looking for organic citrus to promote this fall.

“There will be promotional opportunities (for organic citrus),” said Craig Morris, citrus category director for Homegrown Organic Farms, in Porterville, CA, “but it may require expanding the product line.”

Cara2012-10 homegrownCara Cara oranges from Homegrown Organic Farms.Of course navel oranges, grapefruit and lemons top the popularity chart in the citrus category but there is also a plethora of specialty citrus and may offer the best bet for organic promotions. Morris noted that Homegrown grows and sells about a dozen citrus varieties during this fall/winter period. That list includes clementines, satsumas, grapefruit, pomelos, cara caras and limes. He went through the list noting that each of these varieties — and several others — will see production spikes over the next several months and will offer promotion opportunities from time to time.

As lemon production from Mexico declined in October, harvest increased in several California districts including the Coachella Valley, Ventura County and the San Joaquin Valley. With lemon production on the rise, lemon prices were expected to soften in November allowing for promotion. Morris said that same scenario is true for both organic and conventional lemons. New this year from Homegrown for the retail trade is a one-pound lemon bag.

Navel orange production began in late October but Morris warned that the crop is expected to be only about two-thirds that of a normal crop as extensive summer heat resulted in an inordinate amount of drop. Navel trees have the ability to store the fruit on the tree so how quickly the crop will disappear is highly dependent on demand. Morris said because of the overall supply dip, he anticipates that the season will probably be cut short on the back end. “We’re down 25 percent from last year and last year was off 18 percent from the previous year. The net result is a crop that is only 65 percent of a normal year.”

Morris said specialty citrus will offer promotional opportunities from about mid-November on. By that time multiple districts will be producing and supplies will be on the rise.

Homegrown has also added a Mexican Valencia orange to its program this year. “In order to exceed our customers’ expectations, we’ll also be offering an organic Mexican Valencia program,” said Cherie France, the marketing manager for the grower-shipper. “This will allow us to offer a more affordable orange option during the back half of the season when supplies might be more difficult.”

The company has also expanded its organic lime production from Mexico.