Brisk movement of California and Mexican lemons should continue, but new California production should bring prices down.
The lemon market won’t likely be as robust as it’s been in recent months, but it will still be strong, said Paul Story, director of grower services for Exeter-based California Citrus Mutual.
“Pricing is still very good and demand is good, though it’s starting to soften somewhat as we transition from Ventura County to the desert and central California,” Story said Oct. 22.
On Oct. 22, the U.S. Department of Agriculture reported prices of $30.75-35.80 for 7/10 bushel cartons of 1st grade 75s from California and Arizona, up from $26.73-28.75 last year at the same time.
Sherman Oaks-based Sunkist Growers also expects continued brisk movement, said Joan Wickham, advertising and public relations manager.
“Demand for lemons continues to be strong, both in the U.S. and in export markets,” she said. “Lemon harvesting has started in (the San Joaquin Valley), and the crop is strong with good sizing.”
A combination of good demand and smaller fruit in Ventura County spurred demand in the summer, and it’s continued into fall, Story said.
“They had high color early, so they jumped ahead.”
Story is unsure what’s been driving domestic demand, which this summer yielded record movement some weeks. But it’s been matched by brisk export sales to Korea, Japan, Indonesia, Australia and other markets.
Sunkist also expects steady demand for its specialty and organic lemons, Wickham said.
“Sunkist Meyer lemons are now available, with steady supplies expected through May,” Wickham said.
The new crop of Sunkist organic lemons is also now available, with increasing supplies in November, Wickham said. Good supplies of Sunkist Zebra (pink variegated) lemons were also available the week of Oct. 21.
The smaller Ventura crop will give way to larger-than-usual desert and central California crops, which should weaken markets in the coming months, Story said.
The California/Arizona desert deal is expected to be 8% larger than last season, and the central California crop 10% larger, Story said.
“There’s some pretty high-quality fruit coming off,” he said.
Because of September rains in Mexico, exports to the U.S. have been limited this season.
“Mexico will ship into December, but they won’t be a major factor,” Story said. “The weather really did a number on them.”