Fresh lemon producers start to see turnaround

01/21/2011 12:08:15 PM
Cynthia David

When life gives you lemons, just wait for the economy to improve.

“Lemons took a pretty heavy hit in the produce department during the recession, in part because a substantial part of our volume goes to foodservice,” said Richard Pidduck, who grows lemons on the California coast, with its Mediterranean climate.

“In 2010 we saw a partial recovery,” said Pidduck, chairman of the board of Saticoy Lemon Co-op, co-founded by his grandfather, a lemon grower in the Ventura area.

“In the latter part of the year, the volumes of fresh going into the market were starting to return to historical levels.”

California growers are expecting a good crop, he said, slightly larger in volume than last year. And they were hoping the winter rain would plump up what began as a smaller-sized crop before harvesting begins in February or March, continuing to October.

Gene Coughlin, category director for citrus for Sun World International, Bakersfield, Calif., said the company has been packing lemons since October in District 3 in the Coachella Valley and will continue into February, then transition into the District 1 area. The larger than normal early crop will overlap with District 1 more than usual, he said, which will mean lower prices during the transition period.

Coughlin said exports to Australia are doing particularly well this year.

“There seems to be more interest every year for California lemons,” he said.

Demand continues to exceed supply on large-size lemons, said David Mixon, senior vice president and chief marketing officer for Seald Sweet, Vero Beach, Fla. When the California harvest ends at the end of June, Seald Sweet will start importing lemons from Chile, followed by Mexican lemons in July.

“The hopes are to see lemons coming from Argentina in July,” Mixon said, “but we’ve been saying this for three years. It would be good for the consumers and for the Argentina growers.”

The Argentines are in the final stages of finalizing the scientific proof to satisfy phytosanitary requirements for their products, he said, and he hopes comments and discussions can be completed within a year or two.



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