U.S. Lemons: Lower Production, Higher Prices

Ernie Nefflemons


U.S. growers produced 884,000 tons of lemons in 2020-21, the smallest lemon crop since 2016-17, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Economic Research Service. Eighty percent of these lemons (710,000 tons) went to the fresh market, a 6% decrease in quantity from 2019-20.

Although most U.S. lemons are grown in California, Arizona growers typically supply about 5% of the U.S. crop. Both California and Arizona had smaller crops in 2020-21, with a 2% volume decline in fresh market lemons in California and a 50% volume decline in the same category in Arizona.

The large decrease in the Arizona crop can be attributed to higher fruit drop and lower sizing than expected, as well as the decreasing yields among aging lemon groves in the state. The sizing and drop issues in Arizona can be attributed to near-record high temperatures in the Yuma Valley during spring 2020, when the future 2020-21 lemon crop was at a nascent stage and highly susceptible to heat damage.

Likely in response to the smaller crop, fresh lemon imports to the United States from August 2019 through July 2020 were up by 66 million pounds (22%) from the previous season. Argentina, Mexico and Chile remain the main suppliers of lemons to the U.S. market and together supply 97% of lemon imports.

Correspondingly, U.S. fresh lemon exports in 2020-21 lagged 16% behind 2019-20, reaching the lowest level in 30 years. Higher imports and reduced exports offset lower domestic production levels, resulting in a slight increase in per capita availability of fresh lemons in the United States over last year. This led to U.S. grower prices increasing from $27.76 in 2019-20 to $29.86 in 2020-21, a 7% increase.

See the full U.S. Department of Agriculture report.

Source: U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Economic Research Service

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