USDA Publishes New Citrus Report – Will Confusion Result?

According to a March USDA/ERS report, the nation’s citrus crop is higher than the previous season by 31 percent.  The report notes that Florida orange tonnage is significantly higher, but once again fails to differentiate between fruit destined for the fresh market versus that moving to juice and other processing objectives.  The report notes that prices are down as compared to one year ago “when orange, grapefruit, and lemons prices, especially in the fresh market, were at their highest average levels for the month (January) since the 1990s.”

Imports of fresh oranges are up so far this season, according to the report which elevated the pressure on supply thus forcing prices lower, “significantly lower.”  Export volumes are down, almost 15% less than the previous November/December time frame which we attribute to trade disputes and unintended consequences for our industry.  USDA data shows declines to South Korea, 58%, Hong Kong, 23% and Canada down 3%.  The former we suspect is simply a timing issue whereas the Hong Kong data is a direct result of the trade dispute.  Canadian tonnage was off primarily because lingering offshore product of inconsistent quality created confusion, if not disdain, for citrus thereby lowering demand at the outset of our season.

Increasing volumes year over year suggest a continued long term trend of expansion for import product report authors state.  Mexican exports were up 14% while Chile was up 34% for example.

In later paragraphs, there is recognition that a significant source of orange volume increase is attributable to Florida’s recovery from hurricane Irma.  Grapefruit production has risen by an estimated 24% with Florida hurricane recovery and Texas production accounting for the increase.  Lemon tonnage is off almost 4% all of which is attributable to California tonnage reduction. Presently USDA assumes the mandarin varieties will result in a 20% volume increase all of which is attributable to a larger crop in California.

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