( File photo )

Drought conditions in Mexico’s citrus regions have cut the country’s 2020 orange crop potential by nearly half, but fresh citrus shipments to the U.S. will only suffer minor reductions, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

“Significant and ongoing” drought conditions have resulted in a reduction in all citrus production compared with previous estimates, and orange production is forecast to fall 45%, according to the update from USDA’s Foreign Agricultural Service. The downturn is mainly expected to hurt valencia oranges used for orange juice.

Mexican orange production is on 847,000 acres, but the USDA said high tree mortality is expected due to prolonged high temperatures and lack of rain. Producers in Veracruz report widespread replanting of orange trees is underway, according to the USDA. 

Orange yields are down by about one third, according to the report. The 2019-20 harvest of 2.53 million metric tons is 45% lower than a previous estimate and one of the lowest projected harvests since the early 1990s.

There are also concerns that without increased government support, citrus greening disease could become a more serious problem throughout the country, according to the report.
Most Mexican fresh oranges shipped to the U.S. are navel oranges from Sonora, and the USDA projects 2019-20 fresh exports to the U.S. will reach 60,000 metric tons, down 3% from 2018-19.

Lime shine

Mexico is the world’s second-largest producer of limes, with production in the states of Michoacán, Veracruz, Oaxaca, and Tamaulipas.

While drought has hurt lemon and lime production, the damage has not been as severe as suffered by oranges, according to the USDA.

Nearly all lime exports go to the U.S. Mexican exports of lemons and limes to the U.S. are forecast at 755,000 metric tons for 2019-20, unchanged from 2018-19.

However, the report said there are security concerns for lime growers.

“Contacts in Veracruz indicate that increasing instability in the area is having effects on producers (particularly lemon and lime), and if it persists, could result in some producers leaving the industry,” according to the report. “When prices are high, producers have reported having supplies stolen from fields and when transporting product to local distributors.”

Because of that, many producers prefer to do business with large brokerage firms for security of both product and prices.

“Reports of local distributors manipulating prices through threat of force is common,” according to the report. 

The Packer's Citrus Updates

The Packer's Mexico Updates