SA growers speed up navel picking to avoid 'creasing'

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SA growers speed up navel picking to avoid 'creasing'

South African growers are prioritizing navel orange picking ahead of lemons in a bid to minimize creasing problems with skin breaks.

It is estimated yields this season are 10-15% down due to the issue, although growers are reporting good internal quality with high brix levels.

Grown For You chief executive officer Snyman Kritzinger said original estimates of a bumper crop had been revised due to creasing.

"But the positive side is the navels we are putting into cartons are more class I and IIs. People will come back for more because it eats well."

Sunday's River Citrus Company marketing director Hannes de Waal, said the problem was "manageable".

"The key thing is you pick the fruit prior to it happening. It is a factor in our pack houses and it will decrease the crop. However, the quality of the fruit this year is quite beautiful."

He said creasing, thought to be caused by lack of sufficient soil nutrients, could be controlled by use of gibberellic acid sprays.

The orange season this year in South Africa is about two to three weeks later than previous seasons. Picking of early navels started four to five weeks ago with mid navels picked last week and huge volumes set to be harvested over the next few weeks.

Lemons are even further behind with Kritzinger reporting only packed 50% so far compared with what was ready for shipment in 2011.

Argentine lemon export volumes are currently low due to a mixture of bad weather and currency problems which means South African lemons have commanded good prices.

Wholesale prices for a 15kg carton of lemons in Europe are EUR16.5 (US$21), while navels are commanding freight on board prices of US$8-10 per carton for the smaller sizes and US$12-15 for the larger sizes.

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