Small-sized fruit, retaliatory Chinese tariffs and more foreign competition add up to a real worry for Tulare County citrus growers this season.
Tulare County is the top citrus county in the state. Regarding the weather, Joel Nelsen, California Citrus Mutual president, says the continuous 34 days of 100-degree temperatures this summer “shut down the trees” for a period of growing. The result is a big crop of small fruit.
He added that offshore fruit continues to move into US markets during the traditional California citrus growing months both in the beginning and end of Tulare County's season. That competition will be moving into China, too.
Besides the big crop and added competition, farmers feel they are facing “a real negative impact” from the Chinese retaliatory tariffs of more than 50 percent, said Nelsen. “The reality is this will essentially keep our citrus from moving into China for this entire season," he said. Instead, “we will try to send some of that fruit to other countries.”
Japan may open their market to reduced tariffs in coming months, Nelsen speculates. Nelsen has been working closely with the Trump administration but believes there is “virtually no chance of negotiations happening soon enough to get our citrus into China this season," and through next spring.