Satsuma mandarins are big business in the Georgia and North Florida citrus industry. Satsumas are desirable from the consumer perspective, and the fruit’s cold hardiness is suited for the northern reaches of citrus production. Cold hardiness was proven to be especially important after freezes in late December and in January.
But a problem with satsumas is that the fruit matures and hits the market all at the same time. During the Southeast Regional Fruit & Vegetable Conference, Greg Fonsah, a professor of agricultural and applied economics with the University of Georgia, discussed satsuma production during a citrus educational session.
In addition to flooding the market, satsumas have a high cull rate. He said the variety has an average cull rate of 33%, but some growers have experienced a rate as high as 70%. That sometimes occurs due to the fruit’s tendency to take too long to color up. By the time the fruit is orange, it has become soft and is not marketable.
Fonsah has run models to determine the fixed and variable costs associated with producing satsumas. He suggested growers need to work for a baseline price to remain profitable.
“If you sell satsumas for less than 44 cents per pound, you are going to have a negative price,” he warned.
So, the question is: How can satsuma growers remain profitable given challenges and the cost of production? Fonsah said this will require thinking outside of the box and better, more aggressive marketing.
He added growers and the industry should work together to develop export markets. This could help dramatically improve the price scenario for the satsuma. He also suggested growers need to work with researchers to find ways to produce more marketable fruit and reduce the cull rate.
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