Citrus supplies sour
December 8, 2009
by Ron Sterk
KANSAS CITY — Supplies of most citrus fruits and products in 2009-10 will be smaller than a year earlier, but, thanks in part to large carry-in supplies, barring a weather-related disaster, shortages should not be an issue.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture forecast 2009-10 U.S. citrus production at 10.9 million tons, down 9% from 2008-09 and down 15% from 2007-08.
U.S. orange production, at 8.2 million tons, was expected to be down 10% from 2008-09 and down 18% from two years ago. The crop in Florida, where 95% of production is used for juice, is expected to be the smallest since the hurricane-reduced crop of 2005-06.
“The combination of adverse weather conditions in Florida throughout the growing season and the continued decline in the number of bearing trees strongly contributed to the state’s overall decline,” the U.S.D.A. said in its latest Fruit and Tree Nuts Outlook.
Orange juice production was forecast by the U.S.D.A. at 899 million single-strength equivalent (s.s.e.) gallons in 2009-10, down 15% from last year and the second lowest since 1990-91. But because of large carry-in supplies from 2008-09 and expected larger imports, total supply is forecast at 1,955 million s.s.e. gallons, down from 2,173 million last year but still the second highest since 2004-05. Stocks of frozen orange juice concentrate were 113 million s.s.e. gallons on Oct. 31, up 3% from a year earlier, the U.S.D.A. said in its latest Cold Storage report.
Orange growers in recent years have had an uphill battle with orange juice consumption as consumer demand has waned due to concerns over carbohydrates and at times high prices. Per capita orange juice consumption peaked at 5.7 gallons in both 1997-98 and 1998-99. But consumption plunged more than 40% to a low of 3.3 gallons per person in 2007-08 before recovering to 4.5 gallons last year, according to the Economic Research Service of the U.S.D.A. Per capita consumption is expected to hold about steady in 2009-10, and “processors may continue to sell orange juice at retail at prices near 2008-09 levels” to keep stocks lower than in recent seasons, the U.S.D.A. said in its Outlook report.
California’s early, mid and navel orange crop, which goes mainly to the fresh retail market, was forecast at 1.5 million tons, up 16% from 2008-09 but still below recent average production, and because of high quality, likely will command higher prices in 2009-10, the U.S.D.A. said.
In its latest Agricultural Prices report, the U.S.D.A. said preliminary November values paid to growers for oranges were $11.57 per box, up 1% from October and up 54% from a year-ago.
Grapefruit production, forecast at 1.2 million tons in 2009-10 and down 9% from last year, is expected to see its fourth consecutive annual decline, with adverse weather reducing outturn in Texas and Florida, and smaller acreage in the latter. Florida accounts for about 70% of U.S. production. Grapefruit shipments were later than a year ago, resulting in sharply higher prices early in the season. Although prices likely will moderate from recent levels as shipments increase, values are expected to remain above last year.
The preliminary November price paid to growers for grapefruit was $8.83 per box, down 32% from October but 61% above November 2008, the U.S.D.A. said.
U.S. 2009-10 lemon production was forecast at 855,000 tons, down 10% from last year but up 38% from the freeze-damaged crop of 2007-08 and near average for the decade. Good quality and slow harvesting was expected to keep prices above year-ago levels, the U.S.D.A. said. Growers were paid $16.96 a box for lemons in November, down 21% from October but 63% above the year-ago price, according to preliminary U.S.D.A. data.
Tangerine and mandarin production and acreage were the only expected increases in citrus for 2009-10, with area in California up 11% from 2008-09. Prices paid for tangerines and mandarins in November were $11.34 a box, up 64% from October but down 35% from November 2008, the U.S.D.A. said.
Citrus forecasts for 2009-10 will be updated by the U.S.D.A. in this week’s December Crop Production report, but little has changed since initial forecasts were made in October to significantly alter supply and demand expectations.