Costa Rica Orange Production to Decline

Tacy CalliesCrop Forecast, International, Oranges

Costa Rica
Photo by Dominika Roseclay

Production of oranges in Costa Rica in 2023–24 is expected to decline 15% from the prior year to 250,000 metric tons (MT), the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Foreign Agricultural Service (USDA FAS) reported. The decline is a result of unfavorable weather conditions in Northern Costa Rica associated with an El Niño weather system.

Two companies, TicoFrut and Del Oro, control most of the production and practically all processing of oranges in the country.

Orange acreage is expected to be unchanged in 2023–24 at 21,000 hectares.Commercial orange production is concentrated in the northern parts of Alajuela and Guanacaste provinces.

Growers have gradually increased the number of trees per hectare by using the “flying dragon” pattern, which supports higher tree density, easier farm management and lower production costs per hectare. This innovation has allowed farmers to significantly increase tree density from 300 to 450 trees per hectare under traditional planting patterns to 800 to 900 trees per hectare with the flying dragon.

Citrus greening disease was first identified in Costa Rica in 2011 and remains a major concern for producers. Citrus greening is now endemic throughout the country’s growing areas, increasing costs, decreasing yields, adding uncertainty to future production plans and limiting growth of production area.

The largest farms have been relatively successful in mitigating the effects of the disease by establishing strict controls, including constant farm surveillance and eradication of affected plants. Better-capitalized producers use agrochemicals and biological controls (a wasp, Tamarixia radiata, that feeds on the Asian citrus psyllid) in their preventive measures.

According to industry sources, small- or medium-size growers whose plantations have been affected by greening are very likely to exit orange production over the medium term, given the high cost of controlling the disease.

Calendar-year orange imports from Nicaragua reached 65,204 MT through September 2023, slightly higher than the same period in 2022.

USDA FAS expects total orange juice exports (including both single strength and frozen concentrated orange juice) to decline to 33,000 MT in 2023–24. The United States continued to be Costa Rica’s leading destination for orange juice exports in 2023. Total orange juice exports to the United States through September 2023 were 17,625 MT, 8% higher in volume than the same period in 2022.

See the full USDA FAS report on Costa Rica citrus here.

Source: USDA FAS