Feb 16, 2023
Increased organic lemon supply driving down prices
Increased acreage and availability are driving down organic lemon prices, according to a recent report from Organic Produce Network.
Growers and purchasers are seeing more product and lower prices from coast to coast.
John Wise, president of Sespe Creek Organics in Ventura County, California, has been growing organic lemons for more than 35 years and said he’s seen a steady rise in the fruit’s market availability.
“It seems like every year, the supply of organic lemons is increasing, from both domestic and international growers,” he said. “Last year, the price of organic lemons was, for the most part, in the doldrums. With added supplies, this downward trend should continue for the near future.”
Bianca Kaprielian, CEO of Fruit World, which has a year-round California organic lemon program, agreed.
“With a slightly softer demand more recently coupled with Mexico exporting fruit well beyond their typical window, pricing this year and in 2022 has been some of the lowest we’ve experienced for a sustained period,” she said.
Kaprielian noted that “both Mexico and Argentina have some major organic acreage,” which has been a challenge at the start of the California season when there is about two months of overlap of strong volume. She said lower labor and growing costs in Mexico can make it difficult for California organic lemon growers to compete.
Covilli Organics, which has a summer organic lemon program out of Mexico and recently added a new lemon grower with late fall-early spring availability, has also observed dropping prices.
Alex Madrigal, company president, said that last year he ended his organic lemon summer deal early. “We stopped at mid-August versus going to the end of August/early September because the market wasn’t there,” he said.
Prior to the summer of 2022, Madrigal said the market had been “pretty steady,” noting that he was able to hit $60 per carton on average, with some peak windows of $80. But he said this past summer, those peak windows “didn’t happen, and I think that’s just a function of more supply in the marketplace.”
On the wholesaler side, purchaser Flora Darby of San Francisco-based Veritable Vegetable also expected summer prices similar to last summer.
“Historically prices head to the $70s and $80s FOB/case in July and August on the West Coast, but last year, prices stayed flat and peaked in late August around $60,” she said, adding that some of Veritable’s lemon growers have added organic acreage.
On the East Coast, Myles Chasser, organic and conventional fruit buyer for Four Seasons Produce, said he’s also seeing depressed organic lemon prices.
“With a plethora of fruit from both Mexico and California, markets are at recent historical lows,” he said. “With all the rain and snowpack, I expect we will see excellent supply and low markets for at least the next couple of years.”
Chasser noted that in years past, organic lemon supplies had been very tight in August, sending the East Coast market soaring above $100. But more recently, he said, Chile has been able to fill that gap.
Four Seasons’ sister company, Earth Source, is a major importer of Chilean lemons to the US.
Despite the lower prices, Kaprielian said the quality of California fruit has been strong this season, while Wise and Chasser said significant January rainfall in California should produce larger sizes.
— Organic Produce Network