Small citrus fruit provides good eating

01/20/2011 04:33:28 PM
Cynthia David

Per-capita use of oranges dropped from 10.8 pounds to 9.1 pounds per person, according to the USDA, and grapefruit dropped from 4.1 pounds in 2004 to 2.8 pounds in 2009.

Though consumption is declining in citrus as a category, when you look at individual varieties, the consumption of clementines and other small seedless oranges is rising, Galone said.

In December, the USDA’s National Agricultural Statistics Service forecast U.S. tangerine and mandarin production at 5% above last year, and predicted prices will remain strong as the easy-peel industry continues to grow and markets expand.

NASS forecasts California’s orange crop at 2.4 million tons, up 14% from last season and nearly 39% above 2008-09. Florida’s orange production, 95% of which is used for juice, is up 9% from last season but 10% below 2008-09, according to NASS, while Florida grapefruit is facing a fourth consecutive season of declining production.

NASS forecasts this year’s U.S. lemon crop at 948,000 tons, 10% higher than the 2009-10 crop.

While most North Americans think of citrus as a winter commodity, imported summer citrus is growing by up to 20% every year, Mixon said.

“Two years ago, we had almost 100% growth on navel oranges imported into the U.S. from Chile, South Africa, Peru, soon to be Uruguay and eventually Argentina,” he said.

Australia can’t afford to stay competitive in the U.S., so they’d be better off concentrating their efforts closer to home, he said.

Along with competition from exports, California growers are also competing against one another, Nelsen said.

“Our production is up and we have our own varieties going head to head,” he said.

“Before, we did navels in the winter and early spring, then valencias late spring and summer. Now we have internal competition, and we’re going to have to manage that.”


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