While the U.S. domestic supply of citrus has declined tremendously, imports have increased substantially. That, says American Farm Bureau Federation economist Daniel Munch, is a telltale sign that consumer demand for citrus in the United States is now greater than domestic production capacity.
“In other words, we’ve become partially reliant on other nations for citrus products,” Munch writes in U.S. Citrus Production – An Uphill Battle to Survive. Excerpts from Munch’s report follow.
In 2000, the U.S. imported just under 9 million boxes of fresh citrus fruits; in 2022 that number jumped over 320% to over 37 million boxes. Nearly half of those 37 million boxes were imported from Mexico, followed by Chile (15%) and Peru (10%).
In terms of exports, the expected opposite has occurred. In 2000, the U.S. exported over 26 million boxes of fresh citrus fruits; in 2022 that number dropped to just over 12 million boxes, a 53% decline. Until 2014, the volumetric trade balance of U.S. citrus imports and exports was positive, meaning the U.S. exported more fresh citrus to other countries than it imported. Since then, however, the trade balance has switched to negative, moving from a difference of 770,000 boxes in 2014 to a deficit of over 25 million boxes in 2022.
The decline in citrus production in the United States has diminished the country’s longtime role as a leader in global market share. In 1970, for instance, the U.S. produced nearly 50% of the world’s oranges. This number dropped to 25% by 2000 and sits at an expected 5% for 2023. Much of that share reduction has been taken by Brazil (35%), China (16%) and the European Union (12%).
Similarly, this has occurred with grapefruit. In 1970, the U.S. produced 75% of the world’s grapefruit, which dipped to 43% in 2002 and now is projected to sit at a mere 4% in 2023. China now claims almost 80% of global grapefruit production, followed by Mexico and South Africa at 6% each.
Production has increased in foreign countries, even with the presence of citrus greening disease. Though citrus greening disease is very much present in other leading production nations, like Brazil and China, and has resulted in production losses, these countries have more land available in climate zones favorable to citrus crops. This means they can more effectively hedge against disease spread by growing in different areas, an option Florida growers cannot take advantage of. The lower cost of labor and less presence of environmental regulatory hurdles likely contribute to the ease of growing crops and battling disease in these competitor nations.
Source: American Farm Bureau Federation