California Navel orange production could be 70 million cartons this year, down about five million cartons from last year, according to the latest survey measurement from the California Department of Food and Agriculture (CDFA).
About 68 million cartons of Navels are projected to come from the Central Valley. Last year’s utilization was 75.6 million cartons.
This decrease can be attributed to several factors, according to Joel Nelsen, president of California Citrus Mutual.
Navel acreage continues to decline under California’s regulatory pressures, Nelsen says. He expects up to four packinghouses not to open this year. Nelsen says this could cause negative ripple effects throughout the Valley’s economy.
Bearing acreage for the upcoming Navel season is 115,000, down 5,000 acres from the previous year, and off from a high of 135,000 acres between 2007 and 2009. The current acreage figure is below the 1998-1999 season of 118,000 bearing acres which saw final utilization sink to 37 million cartons due to a devastating freeze.
The popularity of easy-peel Mandarin varieties could also be a reason for an exodus of Navel acreage, Nelsen says.
A third factor in Navel production this year could be the rain during the early-season bloom period which may have negatively impacted fruit set.
Navel production peaked in California at around 93 million 40-pound cartons in the 2010-2011 season. Prior to that year the standard equivalent weight per carton was 37.5 pounds, according to CDFA.
Outside of a spike in final production in 2015-2016 at 91.4 million cartons, Navel production has consistently declined since its peak ear in 2010-2011.