California citrus growers face a "tight market" for the second year

California citrus growers face a "tight market" for the second year

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California citrus growers are under picking original estimates for the 2021-22 season, which could mean two consecutive years of losses from some farmers, especially for navel oranges and mandarins. 

According to Casey Creamer, President of the California Citrus Mutual, during the beginning of the season growers were picking at the original estimates. The estimates were already forecasted to be substantially lower compared to  last season’s results. Mandarin is the most dramatic case, with an expected reduction of 45 percent year-over-year.

As the season has progressed, growers are finding that they are under picking, even compared to the original projections.

While pricing is up year-over-year, it is not enough to compensate for the rising costs of growing, harvesting and packing the fruit, with issues like labor availability, wages, water issues and fertilizer costs, among others.

“You name it, every single cost element of farming and packing has gone up”, Creamer told Fresh Fruit Portal.

Last season the citrus yield was particularly large, which ended up with growers unable to pick all their fruit. This then affects the crop the next season as well. 

“With the fruit on the tree it affects the next year, we have growers that are looking at two years of consecutive losses,” he added. 

A crucial factor for the season results is the export of premium citrus fruit. Creamer did not have specific figures, but said that there have been difficulties with logistics and getting fruit out to export and expects. 

Nor is the domestic market sufficient to absorb the harvest and offer the same returns.

“Maximizing those exports is a key fundamental for the growers,” Creamer said.

The executive does remain optimistic that the resilience of the sector will help carry it through another rough season. But that endurance and resilience comes with a caveat. 

“It’s a blessing and a curse. I just hope we get to the point where ag does not just have to overcome and be resilient. That there are support structures in place, that there is a business environment that supports the industry. Farmers are tired of hearing just be resilient, find a way and adapt,” he said. 

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