Asian markets spark citrus export growth - The Packer

Asian markets spark citrus export growth

01/19/2012 05:09:00 PM
Jim Offner

Citrus exports in the U.S. appear to be going up, as shippers commit more shipments in Asia and expand their presence in established markets.

In 2010, total U.S. citrus exports were valued at $2.9 billion, a 13% increase from 2009, according the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Fresh oranges and orange juice led the way, followed by fresh grapefruit, lemons and grapefruit juice. Major overseas markets for U.S. citrus include Canada, Japan and the Netherlands.

Exports of fresh oranges were valued at $380.8 million, a 10% increase, while the volume of fresh orange exports increased 12% from 2009, reaching nearly 487,000 metric tons.

Canada is the top export destination for U.S. fresh oranges, followed by China, South Korea and Japan, according to the USDA.

“South Korea has been a very good market for California for the last five or six years, and every year, it seems to be better,” said Andrew Brown, director with Exeter-based California Citrus Mutual.

“Japan has always been a strong market. Just the entire Pacific Rim seems to be very good for fresh California citrus.”

That’s despite China’s status as the largest producer in the world, Brown said.

Fresh grapefruit exports increased 8% compared to 2009, totaling $200.1 million, according to the USDA. Japan remained the top export market for grapefruit, followed by Canada. Both of these markets were up but exports to France and the Netherlands declined.

The value of fresh lemon exports reached $126.9 million, rising 15% compared with last year. Though Japan remained the biggest export market for U.S. lemons, exports to Canada posted a 21% increase. Exports to Australia, South Korea and China were also up compared to 2009. 

“Australia, New Zealand and Korea have been a bright spot for us,” said Dennis Johnston, a partner with Johnston Farms, Bakersfield, Calif.

“Korea has been good for 300-400 loads a week, which is 20% of the deal. Australia will take 50-60 a week and New Zealand 15-20 a week, so it adds up.”

India also is emerging as a customer, Johnston said.

“Talk about a vast, untapped market,” he said.

“When you’ve got a billion people and 1% can eat imported oranges, that’s a lot of oranges.”

Asia is a profitable market, especially with the current exchange rates, said Tom Wollenman, general manager of LoBue Bros. in Lindsay, Calif.

“With the weaker dollar, there’s value right there. Korea has been our latest market that started from being very small 15, 16 years ago to being huge with the degree of people who really latched onto the navel orange.”

Some Florida shippers see Europe as a major market, said Richard Kinney, president of the Lakeland-based Florida Citrus Packers Inc.

“All the fruit with 27 countries within the EU, there’s a lot of room for expansion there,” he said.

“Same thing with Japan. Japan is a big country. We have four or five big markets we ship into there. It’s a function of money, being able to get in there and being able to market, and Japan and Europe are the big markets.”

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