Juice and processed product continue to dominate the citrus import market in the U.S., accounting for 70% of nearly $3.7 billion in shipments, primarily from South Africa, Chile, Australia and Mexico, in 2010, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
Fresh orange imports in 2010 totaled $98.7 million, a 6% increase from 2009. Australia and Mexico experienced double-digit declines in market share in 2010, according to the USDA.
Grapefruit shipments into the U.S. jumped by 14% in 2010, totaling $2.2 million in value. Mexico accounted for 75% of those shipments, with a value of $1.6 million.
Spanish clementines’ influence on the U.S. market is slipping, marketing agents say.
“I think the biggest impact on Florida citrus is not so much the Spanish clementines and other offshore items as the California clementines,” said Al Finch, vice president of sales and marketing for Lake Hamilton-based Florida Classic Growers Inc.
“They’ve made a tremendous inroad into Eastern U.S. markets over the last couple of years and, really, a lot over this past season. They’re gaining more shelf space than previous years.”
Spain’s economic travails in recent years have lessened its role in the U.S. citrus market, said Bob Blakely, industry relations director with Exeter-based California Citrus Mutual.
“There’s some impact from Spain, but there again, the exchange rate and some problems they’ve had in Spain have probably contributed to them not being as major a factor as in the past,” he said.
“Also, our volume has increased, and we’re starting to move more of our product to the East Coast.”
Most offshore shipments complement, and don’t compete with, U.S. fruit, but there are exceptions to that rule, marketers say.
“The biggest issue is the Southern Hemisphere giving their seasonal fruit during the summertime, consuming the valencia market, and/or Northern Hemisphere Spanish clementines importing and going against our California-based clementine program,” said David Krause, president of Delano, Calif.-based Paramount Citrus Association Inc.
California’s growth in the clementine market has negated much of the influence once exerted from offshore production areas, said David Mixon, senior vice president and chief marketing officer of Vero Beach, Fla.-based Seald Sweet International Inc.
The imports’ conflict with California valencias is the most nettlesome problem with the import season, said Andrew Brown, a director with California Citrus Mutual.
“Australian navels, being counter-cyclical, you might have some on the shelves at the same time as California valencias,” he said.
“That could be construed as detrimental to California valencias because we have a seeded piece of fruit versus a seedless piece of fruit coming from Australia. You’ve got lemons from Mexico coming in at the same time as our Coachella and Yuma districts.”
Where navel oranges are concerned, the conflict isn’t so considerable, Brown said.
The exchange rate probably has served as a barrier against shipments from Europe to the U.S., said Richard Kinney, president of Lakeland-based Florida Citrus Packers Inc.
“Our currency against the EU has gotten stronger, but against the Japanese, it has not,” he said.
“Those guys keep an eye on that a lot.”
Cost pressures are affecting everyone, whether offshore or domestic, according to Santa Paula, Calif.-based Limoneira Co.
“Mexico continues to be the newest player on the import front of lemons,” said Alex Teague, senior vice president.