( Courtesy Limoneira Co. )

The future looks bright for California’s lemon crop as consumption increases and consumers discover the health benefits and versatility of the fruit, grower-shippers say.

As usual, Santa Paula, Calif.-based Limoneira Co. began its desert-region harvest in August, said John Chamberlain, vice president of marketing.

The company expected to hit full stride in that district in late October.

The San Joaquin Valley harvest began in early October, and full weekly volumes should be available by Nov. 1.

First harvest in the coastal area should get underway in February.

“Growing conditions were excellent this year with rain, mild temperatures and minimal wind,” Chamberlain said.

“Our Fancy Grade fruit so far looks to be approximately 4% to 5% higher than the past few years,” he said in early October. “However, as always with Mother Nature as our partner, she can change that quickly.”

Chamberlain expected average-size lemons this year, with more mid- to small sizes than last season.

Limoneira’s volume will be up 5% to 9%, he said.

“We had a very extended bloom during the spring and allowed for much of the fruit to hang on the trees through a relatively mild summer.”

Los Angeles-based The Wonderful Co. LLC is excited about the launch of Wonderful seedless lemons, which will begin rolling out in stores in early November, said Adam Cooper, senior vice president of marketing.

“High-graphic branded packaging and point-of-sale bin displays for Wonderful seedless lemons will promote this new game-changing lemon variety,” he said.

A third-party study commissioned by The Wonderful Co. indicated that 83% of lemon buyers are likely to purchase seedless lemons, Cooper said.

The inconvenience of seeds was cited by 81% of those surveyed as a key reason, he said, adding that consumers are willing to pay a premium price for seedless lemons.

For the first time, Arvin, Calif.-based Kern Ridge Growers LLC will have a small lemon crop in December in addition to its navel orange program, said salesman Chris Smotherman.

“We wanted to have a larger offering to our customers,” he said.

Suntreat Packing & Shipping Co., Dinuba, Calif., grows lemons that now are packed and marketed by the Limoneira Co., said Dan Kass, vice president of sales and business development.

The company grows lemons in Central California from Nov. 1 to March 1.

“Central California typically produces good lemons year in, year out,” Kass said.

He expected medium-size fruit this year, “which is good for most markets.”

Lemon prices should be up compared to last season, Chamberlain said.

“With Spain and offshore lemon volume much less, we are expecting prices to return to the previous three-year average,” he said.

“Export markets are looking strong, and the macro consumption of fresh lemons continues to rise annually,” Chamberlain said. “We continue to be bullish on the long term fresh lemon markets.” 


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