Fresh Citrus Minimum Sizes Reduced

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The minimum size requirement for fresh Florida oranges and grapefruit was recently reduced. The Citrus Administrative Committee (CAC), which manages a federal marketing order for fresh Florida citrus, requested the change. The minimum orange size was reduced from 2.5 to 2.25 inches in diameter. The grapefruit reduction was from 3 and five-sixteenths inches to 3 inches. CAC Manager Duke Chadwell explains the change.

“The Citrus Administrative Committee began looking at smaller size fruit a couple years ago,” Chadwell says. “There was a market for smaller oranges and grapefruit. With grapefruit, it was for fresh-squeezed juicing machines. And with oranges, it was predominantly in the institutional market that they wanted smaller sizes for school lunch programs and prisons and all. So our committee looked at that and made a recommendation to the (U.S.) secretary of agriculture that we reduce our minimum size on grapefruit and oranges for the 2017-18 season.”

Chadwell acknowledges that fruit sizes have tended to be smaller in the HLB era. “And not only that, (but) a lot of our imported and new tangerine varieties are smaller,” he says. “So the customer over time has gotten used to a smaller piece of citrus. Couple that with demand for smaller grapefruit for fresh-squeezed juicing and the institutional use of smaller size oranges, and there is a market for it. And our committee recognized that.”

The reduced Florida fruit sizes “will meet the standards that Texas has now,” Chadwell notes. “The competition had already dropped down on those sizes.”

Much more Florida citrus goes to processing plants for conversion into juice than goes to packinghouses for fresh use. The fresh market, however, usually offers better prices for growers. Fresh fruit requires more production expense than juice fruit because it has to be free of most visible blemishes in order to appeal to consumers.

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About the Author
Ernie Neff

Ernie Neff

Senior Correspondent at Large