Fresh Citrus Availability Declining in U.S.

Ernie NeffFresh

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Citrus accounted for 14 percent of the supply of fresh fruit available for Americans to eat in 2018, the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Economic Research Service (ERS) reports. In 1970, citrus accounted for 24 percent of available fresh fruit. The drop from 24 percent to 14 percent over 48 years partly reflects American’s expanded fresh fruit options, ERS states.

In 2018, the supply of fresh fruit available for Americans to eat totaled 58.3 pounds on a per capita basis.

“Over 1970-2018, loss-adjusted per capita availability of fresh oranges and grapefruit declined, while availability of lemons, limes and tangerines increased,” ERS reports. It states that reduced supplies of oranges and grapefruit cause their prices to rise. Consumers and other buyers (food processors, foodservice companies, etc.) often respond to these rising prices by cutting back on their purchases of the now more expensive fruits.

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ERS calculates national supplies of food commodities available for domestic consumption by adding domestic production, initial inventories and imports of a particular commodity, such as oranges. It then subtracts exports and end-of-year inventories. To calculate per capita estimates, these national supplies are divided by the U.S. population. For loss-adjusted availability, ERS applies commodity-specific loss rate estimates to account for some of the spoilage, plate waste, and other losses in food stores, restaurants and households. Loss-adjusted food availability is designed to approximate consumption.

Consumer demand influences producers’ decisions about what types of fruits should be grown and importers’ decisions about what types to import, ERS states. From 1970 to 2018, loss-adjusted per capita availability of oranges fell by 51 percent, though they were the most popular citrus fruit during this time, ERS adds. Grapefruit saw its popularity fall by 84 percent. Loss-adjusted per capita availability of other citrus fruits grew — lemons, for example, doubled; limes increased by 22 times.

ERS points out that changes in consumer demand occur for a variety of reasons. “Skipping breakfast or making it a ‘grab and go’ meal is likely to reduce demand for fresh oranges and grapefruit,” it states. “Additionally, grapefruit takes more effort to eat, especially when compared with easy-peel citrus fruits such as tangerines that are sweet in taste and smaller in size: This makes them a preferred ‘on the go’ fruit choice. Studies have found that compounds in grapefruit negatively interact with certain medications, further reducing demand for grapefruit among some consumers. As for factors contributing to increased demand for lemons and limes over 1970 to 2018, one could be the growing popularity of Hispanic, Asian and other cuisines that use these fruits.”

See the ERS’ full report on fresh fruit availability here.

Source: USDA’s Economic Research Service

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