By Clint Thompson
Citrus harvest season is in full swing across the North Florida/South Georgia production region. One thing is certain this season: Growers need to diversify their farming operations with citrus varieties other than satsuma mandarins.
Grower Kim Jones, who also owns a citrus packing facility in Monticello, Florida, and is part-owner of a similar facility in Tifton, Georgia, discussed the high volume of satsumas that he’s seeing early this season.
“There is a bunch of satsumas planted. We don’t even have all of the satsumas in production, and we’re seeing a huge amount of satsumas available for the market,” Jones said. “We’ve got a lot of satsumas in these packinghouses.”
If citrus growers diversified their crop mix, they would provide buyers and consumers with alternative purchasing options besides satsumas, while also extending their own marketing window.
“We need citrus that comes in earlier (October) than the satsumas and later (January and February) than the satsumas. We need those three months filled instead of only November and December when satsumas are coming in,” Jones said.
He advises producers to be cautious in knowing when to pick their fruit this season. Color and size are major qualities that need to be just right when fruit are harvested.
“We really need to get full color — full orange instead of this slight green tint,” Jones said. “We’ve got to be full color and sized right. These great big fruit won’t sell. It’s just not desirable.”
Jones added that this year’s harvest season is still ahead of schedule. He noted the region could use some rainfall. Tropical Storm Nicole only brought minimal moisture to the area, approximately an inch and a half.