A series of Pacific storms that have dumped welcome heavy rain and snow on California has slowed Navel orange harvest, but is also has enhanced fruit size, according to the California Department of Food and Agriculture's (CDFA) Agricultural Statistics Service.

However, fruit size is still expected to be smaller this year and the agricultural statistics services did not change the crop size in its January forecast. It remains at 80 million cartons, 18 percent above last season's crop.

There are concerns that if relatively mild temperatures persist, the crop may mature too quickly, leading to a shorter season. However, the weather turned colder after the December crop estimate was made and that may slow down the maturing. Overall fruit quality is good.

Arizona navel and miscellaneous oranges are projected to be 200,000 boxes, down 26 percent from last year.

California's Valencia orange forecast is 42 million cartons, down 9 percent from the October forecast and 5 percent below last season's crop. Smaller sizes and heavy sets are being reported for the upcoming Valencia crop. Recent high winds may result in some fruit scarring and loss, but no other major problems have been noted as yet. Arizona's Valencia crop is expected to total 250,000 boxes, the same as last season.

Lemon crop up

The 2002-03 California lemon forecast is 46 million cartons, up 10 percent from October and 21 percent above last year. The season is progressing with no major problems to date. Central valley and south coastal areas report very good quality. Arizona's lemon crop is forecast for 2.8 million boxes, the same as last year.

This year's California tangerine crop is forecast at five million cartons, up 9 percent from October and up 14 percent from last year. This year's tangerine season is progressing with no major problems to date. Shape is normal and quality has been reported to be very good. Arizona's tangerine crop is expected to total 450,000 boxes, down 27 percent from last season.

California grapefruit production is forecast for 11.2 million cartons, down 10 percent from October and 7 percent below last year. Pummelo, Oroblanco, and Marsh Ruby grapefruit harvests are active in the desert with overall quality reported as very good. Grapefruit in the Arizona desert is down 37 percent to a projected 100,000 boxes.

Cotton

The 2002 production season was an exceptional one for cotton in California and Arizona. Combined, both states are expected to produce almost 2.5 million bales. This represents a sharp decrease from last season, but yields were exceptional with minimal in-season problems and ideal harvesttime weather. Yields were record setting in California for uplands.

And quality is exceptional, with a much longer and stronger fiber average in California and a low micronaire year for Arizona.

California growers produced 1.43 million bales of upland from an estimated at 477,000 acres, the lowest acreage in decades. Production represented a 19 percent decrease from last year. However, the projected yield of 1,439 pounds per acre is a record.

Arizona produced a total of 576,000 bales in 2002, down from 704,500 last year. Upland production accounted for 560,000 bales of this year's crop. The average yield, 1,262 pounds, was 120 pounds more per acre than in 2001. Harvested acreage was down 77,000 acres.

California's Pima acreage was not change in January from earlier estimates. The government says 209,000 acres were produced. Production is set at 580,000 bales, a 9 percent decrease from last year, but unchanged from the Dec. 1 forecast. The average yield is projected to be 1,332 pounds per acre.

Arizona produced 16,000 bales of Pima down 7,900 acres with an average yield of 962 pounds, almost 50 pounds more than last season.

Wheat

In somewhat of a surprise, the Arizona Agricultural Statistics Service projects Arizona durum wheat acreage to be down by 7 percent from last year. Many expected it to increase based on good prices and uncertainty associated with cotton and the federal farm program. Arizona growers seeded 83,000 acres of durum last fall.

California producers seeded 95,000 acres of durum last fall, the same as 2001.

California's winter wheat acreage this season is up 9 percent to 580,000 acres.

Rice

California's overall rice yields average 8,140 pounds per acre, down only slightly from 2001, which was a good year. Nationwide, the average rice yield, 6,579 pounds, was a record. The previous record of 6,496 pounds per acre was set last year.

California produced 42,989 hundredweight of rice, up sharply from the 38,490 of last year and only slightly less than production in 2000.

California is the second largest rice producing state in the nation, behind Arkansas.

However, California produces virtually all the medium grain rice grown in the U.S., 41,085 hundredweight of the 52,101 produced in the U.S. last season. Arkansas produces primarily long grain rice.

e-mail: hcline@primediabusiness.com