California and Arizona citrus items are popular commodities around the globe.
In California alone, 35% of the state’s citrus ends up in markets outside the U.S. and Canada, said Joel Nelsen, president of California Citrus Mutual, Exeter.
Booth Ranches LLC, Orange Cove, Calif., exports up to 30% of its citrus, primarily to South Korea and Japan, but also to other countries in the South Pacific and Middle East, said Neil Galone, vice president of sales and marketing.
There’s no one size that export buyers prefer.
“Export customers in different areas like different sizes, so they tend to take pretty much across the manifest, just as domestic customers do,” Galone said.
Overall, exports seem to be increasing, but numbers can go up and down from year to year based on availability of product and crop sizes in other international producing areas, he said.
California’s citrus has an exceptional reputation, he said. But there is no generic marketing organization that promotes the state’s citrus abroad.
“Everyone does their own,” Galone said.
Galone said he gains an understanding of the international market by visiting foreign marketplaces, seeing what customers’ issues are, checking out retail displays and talking to produce managers and learning about their specific needs.
Alex Teague, senior vice president and chief operating officer for Limoneira Co., Santa Paula, Calif., is optimistic about export potential for the coming season.
“Export channels are opening up, so we expect a very good winter export program,” he said.
The company exports about 30% of its lemons, mostly to Asia and South America, he said.
SunWest Fruit Co. Inc., Parlier, Calif., exports mostly to Japan but also ships a significant amount of navel oranges to Korea, said Doug Sankey, sales manager.
The export movement has been good for the past few years, he said, but it’s important to put up export-quality fruit, which SunWest strives to do.
“Buyers are eager for those exports,” he said.
The Chuck Olsen Co., Visalia, Calif., ships the highest quality lemons to Australia, New Zealand, Japan, Singapore, Malaysia, Hong Kong and South Korea, said Jeff Olsen, vice president.
“Export demand is good,” he said.
Japan and South Korea are the primary markets for Cecelia Packing Corp. in Orange Cove, said Randy Jacobson, sales manager.
Export volume varies from year to year, he said, but foreign sales were up last year, with more product going to Japan.
“Our programs are season specific,” he said.
The company’s export program includes navel and cara cara oranges and minneolas.
Jacobson thinks export buyers look forward to California citrus, but he said they have many alternatives.
Early season demand is not as strong as it once was, he said, “but later in the season, there is still pretty good demand for California navel oranges.”
Bravante Citrus in Reedley, Calif., exports to South Korea, Hong Kong and Southeast Asia, said Mike Keeline, salesman.
Each market has its own manifest of what it wants, but that can vary from year to year, he said.
He anticipates a good export year this season, with the company exporting up to 35% of its crop.
South Korea is not an export destination of Mulholland Citrus in Orange Cove, said Fred Berry, director of marketing.
That’s because, with tariffs and competing fruit out of China, it does not make economic sense to ship there now, he said.
Instead, the company exports to Central America, South America, Australia, New Zealand and Southeast Asia.