Lemon markets are very strong, but lime prices remain in the cellar — so low some Mexican shippers are keeping product at home.
Following a California winter freeze, heavy rains in Mexico and California’s Coachella Valley led to low lemon supplies, said Dave Brocksmith, citrus manager for Vero Beach, Fla.-based Seald Sweet International.
“Demand is good, and in most instances exceeds supply,” Brocksmith said. “When Mexico and Coachella ramped up, people expected some discounting, but 140s and larger have held pretty firm.”
Lemon rices have come down some on 165s and 200s, Brocksmith said, but they’re still well above seasonal norms.
“They haven’t fallen out of bed. We’re still seeing historically high prices.”
Joan Wickham, manager of advertising and public relations for Sherman Oaks, Calif.-based Sunkist Growers, agreed.
“Demand for lemons is at an all-time high, and Sunkist has positioned itself to leverage the opportunities that exist within this market,” Wickham said.
Sunkist expects to have conventional, organic, meyer, seedless and pink variegated lemons — which Sunkist sells under the Zebra brand — this season.
“Sunkist is looking forward to the 2014-15 growing season and expecting a strong lemon crop.”
The company plans to source lemons from three growing areas in California and Arizona this season, Wickham said.
On Sept. 23, the U.S. Department of Agriculture reported prices of $46.80-48.90 for 7/10 bushel cartons of lemons 75s from California, up from $31.75-34.80 last year at the same time.
Lime prices, meanwhile, have gotten so low that some Mexican growers are rethinking plans to ship to U.S. markets, instead targeting product for Mexican processing markets, Brocksmith said.
“The market collapsed, and prices are now below production costs. Growers are saying ‘Forget it.’”
Prices for larger limes were in the $10-12 per-box range the week of Sept. 22 for Salinas, Calif.-based Markon Cooperative, said Michelle Davidson, product manager.
Smaller sizes were considerably cheaper, Davidson said, selling for $6-8 per box.
Despite the lower prices — particularly compared to the triple-digit markets of earlier this year — Markon had not heard of any supply issues caused by Mexican growers pulling product.
And even if a few did scale back production, it may not affect overall production much, she said.
“It seems like it’s been pretty steady, and prices should stay pretty steady,” Davidson said Sept. 23. “Supplies have been fine, and we haven’t seen any quality issues.”
The industry was in a fairly typical seasonal lull before demand and prices likely pick up for the fall and winter holidays, as they usually do, Davidson said.
Rains in Mexico could affect quality and movement later this fall, but as of Sept. 23, Markon had not seen any effects, Davidson said.
On Sept. 23, the USDA reported prices of $8-9 for 40-pound cartons of 110-150s from Mexico, down from $12-14 last year at the same time.