Lemons in Charts: Massive U.S. category growth in tandem with rising prices

July 31 , 2018

Correction: The volumes for U.S. production are incomplete. The volumes for California and Arizona that are available represent only movements shipped by rail. The USDA says it is working on offering a more complete dataset and hopes provide it in the near future.

In this 'in charts' series of mini-articles, Colin Fain of data visualization tool Agronometrics illustrates how the U.S. market is evolving. In each series, he will look at a different fruit commodity, focusing on a different origin or topic in each installment to see what factors are driving change.

Of the 23 commodities we track in Agronometrics, lemons have seen the second-highest percentage growth, sending 80% more fruit in 2017 than in 2010.

By this measure, lemons outgrew all the berries, avocados, kiwis, cherries and the list goes on, the only other commodity that grew more, as a percentage of 2010, were guavas, which only offered U.S. consumers 24 million pounds in 2017, about 10% of the volume moved the same year by lemons.

Lemon movements in pounds

(Source: USDA Market News via Agronometrics)

When you look at growth on the scale that we are seeing with lemons, the first question that should come up is how did the prices react? Surprisingly, it looks like U.S. consumers can’t get enough of this yellow citrus. Where in 2010 the average yearly price hovered right around US$22.00, in 2017 the average was close to US$35.00.

Lemon shipping point prices, 7/10 bushel cartons, in USD

(Source: USDA Market News via Agronometrics)

The seasonality of the industry is well-defined, consistently demanding more fruit in the summer and fall which is mostly supplied by Chile and Mexico.

U.S. lemon monthly movements in pounds - comparing the last four years

(Source: USDA Market News via Agronometrics)

Correspondingly, the largest supplier to the U.S. market is Mexico, which in 2017 supplied 45% of the market. However, the greatest growth with 180% since 2010 has come from Chile, who came in a close second with 37% of the market.

US lemon movements in pounds, 2017 - comparing origins

(Source: USDA Market News via Agronometrics)

As prices over the last three years have been highest in June and July - when Chile is most prevalent - I would expect that we can continue to see more growth from the Southern Hemisphere. Argentina, which has just recently been given permission to enter the market, may play a big roll in the future. So far this year they have sent volumes right in late May and early June - a great space that they can capitalize on in seasons to come.

Lemon monthly shipping point prices, 7/10 bushel cartons, in USD - comparing the last four years

(Source: USDA Market News via Agronometrics)

In our 'in charts' series, we work to tell some of the stories that are moving the industry. Feel free to take a look a some of the other articles listed below.


Avocados in Charts: Dynamic growth and opportunities in the U.S. market

Avocados in Charts: California at the heart of the US market

Avocados in Charts: Peru – An opening window of opportunity


Blackberries in Charts: Strategic growth leads to more stable pricing

Blackberries in Charts: Planesa on Guatemala's Volcanic eruption and upcoming season


Blueberries in Charts: Finding opportunities in the gaps


Strawberries in Charts: The king of berries sees its biggest month ever


Mangoes in Charts: Record prices in June may remain high for coming months

Agronometrics is a data visualization tool built to help the industry make sense of the huge amounts of data that you depend on. We strive to help farmers, shippers, buyers, sellers, movers and shakers get an objective point of view on the markets to help them make informed strategic decisions. If you found the information and the charts from this article useful, feel free to visit us at www.agronometrics.com where you can easily recreate these same graphs, or explore the other 20 fruits we currently track, creating your own reports automatically updated with the latest data daily.

To welcome Lemon professionals to the service we want to offer a 5% discount off your first month with the following coupon code: LEMONS1

The code will only be good till the 21st of August, so visit us today.


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  1. john eliot says:

    The reason the numbers look so impressive is because they are wrong. The article should be titled growth in imported lemons but the reality is that US domestic producers in CA and AZ are by far the largest suppliers of lemons in the US not Chile or Mexico.

    1. Colin Fain says:

      Hi John, Thank you for your comment. I re-ran the numbers the USDA makes available and they match our platform, which is what I used to write the article. In 2017 California came in at 10.66% of the total volume and Arizona was 4%. If you have other data that conflicts with this I would love to know of it. I would be happy to bring it up to the USDA my self and get to the bottom of the discrepancy.

  2. john eliot says:

    The domestic lemon industry does not keep exact records because we do not all communicate but the CA industry grows over 20M cartons and AZ grows well over 6M 40 lb. cartons. Fresh utilization is probably in the 75% range so domestic producers shipped ball park 19.5M cartons last year. The USDA import figures that I see are 1.1M from Chile and 2.25M from Mexico.

    1. Colin Fain says:

      Hi John, I wrote to the USDA and will do a bit of digging to find out what I can about the discrepancy. Thank you again for your comment and I will let you know as soon as I have any updates.

    2. Colin Fain says:

      Hi John,

      Thank you again for your comments and offering your insight into how the Citrus industry operates. I heard back from the USDA and thought I would pass on what they said. First of all, you are absolutely right; the USDA doesn't offer complete data on local Lemon production. Jeff Main, the National Market Reporting Technology Manager for the USDA’s Market News wrote the following:

      "Lemon movement, actually all citrus movement from California and Arizona has not been reported due to lack of cooperation from the industry. The small amount we are showing represents the rail only. We obtain that directly from the rail companies. We are currently working with industry sources in California to secure more complete data on citrus movement. It is our hope that we will have something in place by early fall prior to the beginning of the fall harvest, at least for California. At this point I do not have a lot more details, but hopefully we will know more in the next few weeks."

      If you have a hand in working with citrus data, or could nudge those who do, it would be great to gain a more complete view of what is going on in the market and how the industry is helping to feed America. I still believe that the role of Mexico, growth from Chile and the opportunities for Argentina are still very valid insights that the USDA data offers. That said, I would very much enjoy writing the same article in the near future, capturing the entire market and help drive insights for US producers as well, not only growers from Latin America.

  3. James says:

    An 80% increase is outstanding. The global production and price seems to have both increased by 2.11% and 7.14%, respectively (according to http://bit.ly/2AvG17U) which seems to match the up with the info above. But I'm surprised that despite having a greater supply, price is still increasing so much.