Demand for mandarins is growing across global markets, and as such the soft citrus plays a big part in Habata Agri’s overall operation.
Making up nearly half of the trees, there are four varieties that are being cultivated. With different ripening stages, the nova, valley gold, tango and nadorcott ensure availability throughout the season.
“The whole citrus industry is moving over to mandarins,” explained Habata operations manager Gary Webb.
“That’s where the demand, especially the overseas market, is at the moment.”
He said the easy-to-peel fruit, which had a high brix rating, was mostly exported to Europe as well as the Middle and Far East and that harvesting was in full swing.
“The nova is an early season variety and we started picking them in May. They are coming to an end now.”
He said the next variety to come of age would be the valley gold, followed by the nadorcott and tango in around mid-June.
“These all come in at more or less the same time, but the nadorcott and tango can’t de-green.”
De-greening, Webb explained, was a standard process where the fruit was placed in a chamber containing ethylene gas, a maturation hormone that sped up cellular processes associated with ripening.
He said this process improved the overall colour of the fruit, which impacted on its saleability.
“People shop with their eyes, so they look for fruit that is of good colour, which is what the de-greening process assists with.”
Webb said the nadorcott and tango varieties did not respond to de-greening, which meant these orchids had to be harvested three to four times as the fruit ripened at different times and had to be picked on colour.
All four varieties had minimal seeds, he said, with the tango being completely seedless, which was in line with international market trends.
“Everything is going seedless, even lemons. More and more people are asking for seedless products.”
Webb said while all the varieties were sweet, the nova and valley gold had more of an orange flavour while the tango and nadorcott had a tangerine taste.