Soaring lemon markets could top $50 a box soon.
“Everybody continues to be sold out at very high prices,” Dave Brocksmith, citrus manager for Vero Beach, Fla.-based Seald Sweet International, said July 1. “The only source is California, and pricing continues to go up and up. It could be north of $50 in the next few weeks.”
Chilean shipments are off this season due to frost, and Mexico wasn’t expected to ship until late July, about on time, said Paul Story, director of grower services for Exeter-based California Citrus Mutual.
“Ventura County is the only supplier now, and they’re approaching being three-quarters through,” Story said. “Prices continue to go up, and I think they’ll continue bumping up a little bit.”
On July 2, the U.S. Department of Agriculture reported prices of $40.80-44.90 for 7/10 bushel cartons of 1st grade lemons 75s from California, up from $23.25-25.80 last year at the same time.
The high markets are a combination of low supplies and strong demand, Story said.
“We’ve had extremely good demand, including excellent export demand. Right now the California guys can’t supply the export demand.”
As other California growing regions and Mexico come into production, markets will come down, but as of early July that wasn’t expected anytime soon, Brocksmith said.
“Supposedly Coachella has a nice crop, but it’s ‘When will it come off?’” he said. “I don’t expect anything before the end of August.”
Even when Coachella does enter the deal, early reports indicated a large size profile out of the region, which could mean supplies of smaller lemons will remain tight, Brocksmith said.
As for Mexico, Brocksmith doesn’t expect shipments to begin until late August.
Story agrees that with Mexico and other California deals underway, pricing will stabilize, but it will by no means plummet.
“Prices will temper somewhat, but they’ll still be good.”
California desert lemons should begin shipping in mid-August, Story said.