Acreage Reflects Consumer Demand

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Tango mandarins

Shifting consumer trends have helped dictate which varieties are most popular among California citrus growers. Bruce Babcock, professor in the School of Public Policy at University of California, Riverside, explained that over the past 15 years or so, there have been some notable changes in California citrus acreage.

“What we’ve seen is just explosive growth in acreage devoted to mandarins. Consumers really seem to like the easy-peel, tasty, flavorful and seedless varieties of mandarins that are out there,” said Babcock. “In contrast, Valencia oranges have fallen out of favor with both growers and consumers, so acreage for Valencias has gone down quite a bit.”

At the same time, the interest in Navel oranges has also been waning among consumers and producers alike. “Navel oranges have been fairly steady, but in the last five years or so … according to USDA (U.S. Department of Agriculture), that bearing acreage is down a little bit,” Babcock noted.

Domestic demand for lemons has been on an upswing in recent years, which is a positive sign for citrus growers. But at the same time, Babcock explained that “we’re seeing at least part of that growing demand being met by imported lemons, primarily from Argentina.” The cost of production, particularly the cost of labor, can make it difficult for domestic producers to compete. Babcock said that high production costs must be covered by good prices for lemon producers to break even or make money.

Another cost of production impacting California citrus growers is the added effort related to HLB. The work to keep the threat at bay has been costly for the citrus industry. Increased sprays to combat Asian citrus psyllids have caused overall insecticide costs to climb.

“There’s also extra processing costs and logistical costs as growers navigate the different regulations and quarantines,” said Babcock. “Even though HLB is not in the groves, the prevention costs – I don’t want to say they’re too onerous, but they are growing in California.”

Source: Brian German, AgNet West

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